May Day Rally: Protecting vulnerable groups in society a key priority, says PM Lee Hsien Loong

PM Lee Hsien Loong intends to speak about plans to support low income workers at the National Day Rally in August. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - Protecting vulnerable groups in society is a key priority for the Government, which has also been working with employers and the labour movement to expand the Progressive Wage Model, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Saturday (May 1).

It has been working with these tripartite partners to extend the model - a wage ladder tied to skills and career progression - to more sectors like food services and retail.

"This is not just a theoretical exercise, but a practical, effective strategy to improve the lives of more lower-wage workers. And we plan to more than double the number of workers covered under the Progressive Wage Model over the next few years," he said.

"We are working on some other plans to support lower-income workers too," added PM Lee, who said he intends to speak about these plans at the National Day Rally in August.

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad is coordinating this effort from the Manpower Ministry, and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is also involved, said PM Lee.

He was addressing unionists at Downtown East as well as virtually at the hybrid May Day Rally, where he also underlined how workers need the right skills to benefit from future opportunities.

The Government is investing heavily in SkillsFuture, and will spend about $1.4 billion over the next few years, he noted.

PM Lee added: "The NTUC is a critical partner for the Government to transform our workforce. The Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) is doing good work, building up our training ecosystem."

NTUC has also recently formed over 600 Company Training Committees (CTCs) that identify capability gaps, create new competencies, and train workers for companies.

"They help workers gain the skills and capability ahead of time, so that they can switch into new roles and jobs more easily," he added.

For instance, solar energy firm Sunseap worked with NTUC to redesign its jobs to be more attractive to Singaporeans.

Copthorne King's Hotel also collaborated with the Food, Drinks and Allied Workers' Union to retrain staff to pick up new skills.

One of them was reservation executive Elsie Lee, who was also trained in security, and picked up a security licence - and when tourist arrivals dried up, could be easily redeployed to a new job.

Said PM Lee: "CTCs show how NTUC is making itself relevant to workers. NTUC must continue to reinvent itself, because our workforce profile is also evolving."

For one, the proportion of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) has gone up slightly, from a little over half of the resident workforce a decade ago to about 60 per cent today.

The number of gig workers has also more than doubled in the last three years, to 70,000.

Meanwhile, the population of older workers has also grown significantly, he noted.

NTUC has been reaching out to these groups to better understand their specific needs, and how best to support them, PM Lee added.

To help low-wage workers, labour chief Ng Chee Meng announced the NTUC Foundation on Saturday. This initiative will help sustain the many NTUC Care initiatives that support lower-income workers and their families, especially during difficult times when it is tough to raise funds, PM Lee noted.

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