Minister stresses attention to job creation amid change

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that whatever the Fourth Industrial Revolution may mean to businesses and industry, "a focus on workers and a focus on jobs and skills ought to be at front and centre of everything we do".
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that whatever the Fourth Industrial Revolution may mean to businesses and industry, "a focus on workers and a focus on jobs and skills ought to be at front and centre of everything we do".ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

When it comes to the Fourth Industrial Revolution - marked by digitalisation, robots and artificial intelligence - there is an "obsession" with trying to estimate the scale of the impact on jobs, particularly job losses.

But even as jobs disappear, new ones appear and existing jobs change as well, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo yesterday.

"It is important to pay attention to job creation, even as we think about and pay attention to the jobs that are being lost, because that's really where the hope lies," she stressed at a welcome dinner for the Singapore Summit Young Societal Leaders Programme.

The four-day event is attended by 19 delegates from 13 nations, including China and the Netherlands.

Co-organised by the National University of Singapore and Temasek Foundation, it explores how individuals can collaborate and lead initiatives for social inclusion in the technological and social sectors.

In her speech, Mrs Teo said work in future will involve greater partnership between employers and the Government because the scale and depth of changes will be more intense than in the past.

The kind of new technologies employers decide to use for their businesses, as well as how they choose to transform their business models, will drive the changes in the nature of jobs and the skills required to meet those changes, she said.

"The scale and the depth of the changes, in all likelihood, will be more intense than in the past... there is great value in attempting to crowdsource understanding of what's happening, of issues as they emerge and also ideas for solutions," she added.

She stressed that whatever the Fourth Industrial Revolution may mean to businesses and industry, "a focus on workers and a focus on jobs and skills ought to be at front and centre of everything we do".

Mrs Teo shared four areas of employment outcomes that "keep her awake at night": keeping employment rates high, keeping unemployment rates low, having sustainable wage growth, and achieving a sense of financial security in retirement.

"We all expect that the future of work will be reshaped. The question is how it will be reshaped and whether we can anticipate (changes), and if we have a better sense of what to expect, what we can do about it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2019, with the headline 'Minister stresses attention to job creation amid change'. Print Edition | Subscribe