Global cooperation key to sustainable development: Heng Swee Keat

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking with (from left) Malaysian Human Resource Minister M Kulasegaran, Cambodian Labour Secretary of State Heng Sour, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation Guy Ryder and Bruneian Home Affairs Mi
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat speaking with (from left) Malaysian Human Resource Minister M Kulasegaran, Cambodian Labour Secretary of State Heng Sour, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation Guy Ryder and Bruneian Home Affairs Minister Pehin Dato Abu Bakar Apong.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

He urges leaders to develop citizens, create learning pathways, use labour productively

Amid geopolitical and economic uncertainties, it is critical for countries and international organisations to work closely together towards long-term, sustainable development, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat yesterday.

He called on local and foreign labour ministers and tripartite leaders attending a conference on work this week to grow and develop their citizens, create different learning pathways, and utilise labour productively so workers can lead better lives.

The world is facing many complex and transnational challenges such as terrorism, climate change and food security, said Mr Heng.

"As we become more interdependent and interconnected, it is even more important for countries and international organisations to work closely together to tackle these challenges within a rules-based, multilateral framework, and to build a more peaceful and prosperous world."

This is among the ways Singapore is preparing for the future of work, he said. It is also strengthening tripartite partnerships between the Government, unions and employers, and investing in equipping people with new skills for new growth areas.

Mr Heng was speaking to about 100 delegates at the welcome dinner at Swissotel the Stamford for the Singapore Conference On The Future Of Work: Embracing Technology; Inclusive Growth.

The conference, which centres on the Work For A Brighter Future report published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), takes place today and tomorrow. It is organised by the ILO, Ministry of Manpower, National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation.

 
 
 
 

Mr Heng said Asean labour ministers will be adopting a common statement committing to pooling resources and preparing workers and businesses for the future of work.

Within Singapore, the tripartite partners are working together in various ways, such as through work groups studying key issues, and partnering with academics from institutes of higher learning.

Mr Heng said his address at the May Day Rally on Wednesday - his first day as Deputy Prime Minister - will elaborate on how the Government will continue to support the unions to develop an adaptable and future-ready workforce.

He also highlighted Singapore's shift towards lifelong learning by investing in people from schoolgoing age to working life. "We cannot take for granted that there will be good jobs in the future, as there are trends shaping the future of work."

New technology holds great potential to transform business and social models, create high-quality jobs and improve healthcare and education, the minister said. But it also brings challenges such as rapidly changing jobs and skills, and a growing digital divide. Meanwhile, globalisation has raised competition between companies trying to attract talent, leading to greater wealth accumulation at the upper end and rising tensions between the haves and have-nots, said Mr Heng.

"As global economic weight shifts around the world, and some towards Asia, and business supply chains reconfigure, a key challenge will be for countries to remain open, transform industries and collaborate with one another to achieve better outcomes for workers," he said.

In countries with an ageing population, a declining workforce, coupled with rising life expectancy, will have a profound impact on healthcare expenditures and the economy's vibrancy, he said. In contrast, countries - including some Asean member states - can benefit from their young populations if they invest in education and infrastructure, among other things, he added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2019, with the headline 'Heng: Global cooperation key to sustainable development'. Print Edition | Subscribe