$4m boost for Singapore workers left in lurch when businesses fail

The industry transformation maps will undergo a review to help workers and companies prepare for a complex and uncertain post-Covid-19 world.
The industry transformation maps will undergo a review to help workers and companies prepare for a complex and uncertain post-Covid-19 world.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A fund to support lower-wage workers whose employers cannot pay them due to business failure received a $4 million boost on Friday (April 23).

The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) put in $1 million and the Government will match that with a $3 contribution for every $1.

The money will go to the Short-Term Relief Fund, which was introduced in 2017 to help such workers while they search for a new job and await social assistance.

Since April 1 last year, these workers have been able to get the equivalent of up to two months' salary in financial support, capped at $4,600.

Announcing the contribution at an event at Resorts World Sentosa to commemorate SNEF's 40th anniversary, the federation's president Robert Yap said the money will make a "big difference to the lives of such workers over many years".

The event, themed Reshaping the Future of Work: Agile Employers, Resilient Workforce, was also attended by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Mr Heng said he believed lifelong employment - a common characteristic of jobs in the 1980s when SNEF was formed - was no longer a key feature of the labour market today.

"What matters more is 'lifelong employability'," he added.

In a post-Covid-19 world, a strong bond between employers and employees will be crucial to enhance the lifelong employability of workers and the longevity of companies, said Mr Heng.

The fortunes of employers and employees are closely intertwined, he added.

"Better workers enable companies to be more competitive, and more competitive companies can invest in their workers. We must seek to develop this virtuous circle."

One way to do this is through the industry transformation maps (ITMs) - growth strategies for 23 industries that involve employers working with the Government and labour movement to upskill their workers.

"Our ITMs are in fact an embodiment of how tripartism works in Singapore, and how we can collectively achieve more than the sum of our individual efforts," said Mr Heng.

To help workers and companies prepare for a complex and uncertain post-Covid-19 world, the ITMs are undergoing a review.

The refreshed ITMs will be more closely integrated with the $25 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan, which was announced last year.

They will also focus more on job redesign and reskilling, as well as the training of university students, said Mr Heng.


DPM Heng Swee Keat said he believed lifelong employment was no longer a key feature of the labour market today. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

"With our tripartite partners working closely together on ITM 2025 and the transformation of our economy, we ensure that business transformation, workplace transformation and workforce transformation are tightly integrated," said Mr Heng.

During a panel discussion with Dr Yap, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng and NTUC president Mary Liew, Mr Heng said employers will need to play their part in redesigning jobs and reskilling workers.

Government agencies will also need to change the way they help businesses transform by adopting a more company-centric approach, while the labour movement's company training committee (CTC) initiative will also play a key role, he added.

Mrs Teo agreed, noting that CTCs will help employers identify potential skills requirements that will be needed in the future.

Mr Ng urged employers to "give CTCs a chance" and added that joining the Job Security Council is "the next step".

The council was set up in February last year to match workers at risk of losing their jobs with new roles. So far, it has helped 28,000 workers and represents 10,000 companies.

Mr Ng said that in future, the council will help employers improve talent recruitment in a tight labour market.