Economy needs to become 'less labour-intensive'

Shift to manpower-lean industries, focus on local labour, says Manpower Minister

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Singapore's employment situation is in "a better shape than most other countries", Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said yesterday.

However, a volatile global economy demands that the Republic makes the transition to more "manpower-lean" industries, with a focus on local labour, he added.

Speaking at the Manpower Ministry's National Day observance ceremony at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar, Mr Lim said: "We achieved... what many countries can only dream of... one of the highest employment rates, 79.7 per cent - just second to Japan."

Warning against economic complacency, Mr Lim said: "With greater volatility and growing uncertainty in the global economy, there will be more ups and more downs in international trade and global investments. As an economy with a small and limited domestic market, we will be affected more than others."

He called for an economic transition to less labour-intensive industries, "with a stronger Singaporean core, and a better quality of foreign manpower".

At the event, which was also attended by representatives from the Central Provident Fund Board, Singapore Workforce Development Agency and the Singapore Labour Foundation, Mr Lim stressed the need for continued changes to workplaces.

These include extending the working life of mature employees, and making working conditions more pro-family, so that workers can take better care of their young children or aged parents.

He also said it is important to boost the skills and pay of low-wage workers, as well as assist Singapore professionals, managers and executives in their pursuit of career improvement.

Additionally, he called for enhanced support for those who are self-employed or freelancing, to "progress as part of our inclusive workforce".

Said Mr Lim: "The more we have today, the more we stand to lose tomorrow if we are not good enough and fast enough."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2015, with the headline Economy needs to become 'less labour-intensive'. Subscribe