Government to consider PME task force recommendations for workplace fairness

The remarks were made in response to nine proposals put out by a PME task force led by NTUC and SNEF. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Proposals from the labour movement and employer's federation to ensure workplace fairness and support for local workers will be considered by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

It noted on Friday (Oct 22): "The recommendations will be taken into consideration in the ongoing review of manpower policies, the workplace fairness framework and employment support initiatives."

The remarks were in response to nine proposals put out by a PME task force led by the National Trades Union Congress and Singapore National Employers Federation to pinpoint better ways to assist professionals, managers and executives (PMEs).

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said in a Facebook post on Friday: "We share our tripartite partners' goals in strengthening workplace fairness and support for our PMEs.

"These recommendations are also timely, as the Government has rolled out several initiatives in recent months to support local workers, including our PMEs."

One of the key thrusts of the task force's recommendations is to enhance workplace fairness through improving human resources standards, relooking the review process for employment pass applications and differentiating foreign worker access by occupations.

MOM noted on Friday that a tripartite committee had been formed in July to review the framework for workplace fairness.

"(The committee) will study the recommendations put forth by the PME task force as it designs a legal framework that is balanced, and in the best interests of Singapore and Singaporeans," MOM said.

It added that it regularly reviews work pass policies to ensure that foreign professionals complement the local PME workforce and help businesses create good jobs for Singaporeans.

"We have been exploring further refinements to the employment pass framework to achieve our objectives of a strong Singaporean core, complemented by a diverse foreign workforce," it said.

The PME task force also made recommendations to support PMEs in career progression and skills upgrading.

MOM noted: "Helping locals access opportunities has been the Government's priority, especially given the impact of Covid-19 on the economy and labour market."

It added that the National Jobs Council has boosted job opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.

The Government also recently extended the Jobs Growth Incentive, which supports firms to expand hiring local jobseekers.

Dr Tan said: "Even as employers embark on business and workforce transformation, no worker should be left behind.

"We will continue to work with our tripartite partners to ensure that our workers have the skills, and be in the best position to meet the changing business needs."

Experts agreed that the task force proposals will help PMEs who face challenging times with the Covid-19 pandemic, coupled with the rapid pace of technological change.

Adecco Singapore country manager Betul Genc said: "Age discrimination for one is a common challenge more and more PMEs are increasingly facing. Stiff competition has been coming from the younger generations like the millennials, who are increasingly rising (up the corporate ladder) and landing positions in junior management roles."

Ms Genc added that while workers know they need training, employers must also provide the time off and support for it.

But the unemployment support might be "tricky", she said, given the potential abuse of the measures if individuals choose to remain unemployed or delay their entry into the workforce.

AYP Group managing director Jolin Nguyen said: "On top of training and relief provision, the Government could also offer initiatives such as job matching, which could potentially be done through technology. This would benefit the unemployed PMEs as well as many companies that are still struggling to find the right talent."

Firms also recognise that training workers is a win-win solution.

Ms Susan Cheong, DBS talent acquisition group head, said the bank is in the process of upskilling and reskilling 4,300 employees here in emerging areas such as design thinking, data and analytics and machine learning.

The bank, which has a representative on the PME task force, said: "DBS is committed to grooming Singaporean talent for leadership positions."

PMEs themselves pointed to skills training as one of the most vital aspects of the recommendations.

Procurement manager Daniel Tong, 45, said structured job and skill plans can help him understand the required capabilities for a role and what a company needs from him.

Mr Philip Kwa, 59, who runs a training services business, said: "Training support and mentorship programmes will be very helpful to PMEs like myself. We need to keep ourselves relevant."

The short-term support for firms hiring mature workers is also helpful in encouraging employers to consider older workers, he said, alluding to his own challenges finding a job after being retrenched during the pandemic.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.