One issue that stood out during the parliamentary debate on the Manpower Ministry's budget on Monday was how to find work for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), and the long-term unemployed.
The ministry has come up with measures to help PMETs and retrenched workers, and three stand out.
One is a new programme in which PMETs can join companies as trainees without being hired. The Government will give them training allowances of up to $4,000 a month.
Second, higher salary subsidies will be given to employers who hire retrenched PMETs. The subsidies are as high as $42,000 and will be offered over 18 months, up from $25,200 over 12 months.
Third, rank-and-file workers can get a government training allowance of $1,200 a month for up to three months when they try new jobs in new sectors.
The measures matter to jobless workers on many fronts. They provide relief for such workers and incentives to employers to hire them.
For PMETs who have invested time and money in degrees and diplomas, getting them back to work will not only ensure they can earn a living, but also reduce the loss to the economy.
For rank-and-file workers who are less well off than PMETs, the new work trial scheme signals that they have not been left out, as they too are vulnerable.
Collectively, the moves ought to lessen the pain of jobless workers and get them back to work faster. But implementing the measures alone will not be enough.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say teared up as he told of how a job seeker was not going to let her brain tumour keep her down. He also did not mince words in describing how unrealistic some job seekers were.
The bottom line is that workers also need to steel themselves against the headwinds, be open to new jobs and even be willing to take a short-term pay dip if they switch jobs or sectors. In doing so, they can play their part in helping the country ride out the slowing economy and tepid job market.