Budget debate

Labour MP: Set up National Talent Bank

The office crowd in the Central Business District of Singapore.
The office crowd in the Central Business District of Singapore.PHOTO: ST FILE

Move would let workers post resumes and advance their careers, and help the Government address skills gap

The National Jobs Bank should be expanded into a National Talent Bank, said Mr Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC).

The change will ensure the national jobs portal not only helps job seekers find jobs but also helps workers advance their careers by giving them a place to publish their resumes to be headhunted, added the labour MP.

He also suggested that it includes networking features that are now found in social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn.

Besides helping workers, the National Talent Bank will also allow the Government to analyse and close the gap between the skills employers need and those that workers lack, said Mr Choo, who is a director in the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

His idea on how to help workers was among several raised in Parliament yesterday, the first day of debate on the Government's Budget for the new financial year.

FOR THOSE WHO LOSE THEIR JOBS

During periods of unemployment, would the Government consider suspending the retrenched workers' payment of income tax instalments and allow some flexible use of CPF to pay mortgages, so as to help them keep their homes?

MS FOO MEE HAR, West Coast GRC MP

To get women to rejoin the workforce, he suggested that companies hire them on a trial basis for two to four months before making an offer of a permanent job.

Labour MP Heng Chee How (Jalan Besar GRC) highlighted the anxieties faced by older workers.

Although the re-employment age will be raised from 65 to 67 in July this year, older workers still worry about job security, he said.

"They see that in industries where demand has dropped significantly, companies have begun to shed workers, both foreign and local," said Mr Heng, who is NTUC's deputy secretary-general.

He added: "They, therefore, worry they might be axed next, and whether they would be unfairly targeted for termination or retrenchment on account of their age or because they are deemed to be more costly."

The NTUC, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Singapore National Employers Federation are watching the re-employment trends of older workers closely, said Mr Heng, who is also Senior Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office.

Older workers who feel they have been unfairly retrenched or terminated can seek help from unions, the MOM or employment watchdog Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep), he added.

"Every effort will be made by tripartite partners to help displaced workers of all ages find new jobs, whether in the current line or, through conversion, to other lines of work."

To help older workers find jobs, Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC) called on the Government to create an app that matches seniors to community jobs near where they live. This will bring the "gig economy" to seniors, he said.

Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) noted that there should be a greater link between SkillsFuture credit for training and job outcomes, so that training can produce concrete results for people seeking a job or to raise their pay.

Several MPs also suggested measures to help workers who lose their jobs.

Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) said: "During periods of unemployment, would the Government consider suspending the retrenched workers' payment of income tax instalments and allow some flexible use of CPF to pay mortgages, so as to help them keep their homes?"

Non-constituency MPs Leon Perera and Daniel Goh, both from the Workers' Party, revived the party's idea of providing unemployment insurance for retrenched workers.

"The Government could consider introducing redundancy insurance to even out the risks of retrenchment and provide short-term support," said Mr Goh.

The Budget debate continues today.

Six labour MPs, including labour chief Chan Chun Sing, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC), are expected to speak on manpower issues, such as helping low-wage workers as well as professionals, managers and executives in a slowing economy.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Labour MP: Set up National Talent Bank'. Print Edition | Subscribe