Govt will help workers cope with job changes and economic restructuring: PM Lee Hsien Loong

(From right) Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Manpower Minister Josephine Teo chatting with Noralizah Aziz (career coach), Suriana Sarip and Dr Ng Yew Yee. Suriana found a job as an assistant staff nurse at Healthway Medical Corporation with Workforce Singapore’s help. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Amid the national push to upgrade and restructure the economy, Singaporeans can be confident that there are programmes in place to help them cope with the changes, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (Jan 11).

The journey is not easy, and many people are anxious, and may worry about their career prospects, job security and families. Older people, especially, may be more worried about new technology, he said.

"We have the resources, the plans and the resolve. We will help everybody to get through difficulties. We will help you, walk together with you to overcome these troubles," he said.

"In Singapore, we have spent a lot of effort to put in place quite comprehensive procedures, and already have some experience. So Singaporeans should have confidence."

The changes Singapore faces are unavoidable, but the way forward is to become more productive, do better jobs and earn better pay, he said, speaking to reporters after his first visit to the Careers Connect centre of Workforce Singapore in Paya Lebar, which is where jobseekers can meet career coaches and access career resources.

He also said the economy is doing well and productivity has been high, which shows the economy is not just expanding but is upgrading and improving.

But the gains are uneven, with the export-oriented sectors upgrading rapidly to stay competitive, while domestic services are slower.

The domestic sector needs attention because many of the companies are local enterprises, which employ the bulk of Singapore's workers. "We want to make sure that we have programmes to reach them and can upgrade them and the workers in them," said PM Lee.

For example, the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme helps companies improve their productivity and profitability through applying technology and becoming less reliant on labour.

PM Lee said he was visiting the facility because he wanted to see first hand the work being done to help people transition to new jobs, and meet people affected by the transformation as well as those helping them through it. He spoke with former jobseekers and their career coaches.

"I am very happy to see the enthusiasm here, and that they are seeing some results," he said.

He highlighted the growing number of people placed in jobs through Adapt and Grow programmes. There were 30,000 placements last year, a rise from 25,000 the year before.

The Adapt and Grow initiative run by statutory board Workforce Singapore (WSG) provides programmes for Singaporeans to learn new skills and adapt to changing job demands as the economy undergoes restructuring.

"If you get the help and if you make the effort, well you can navigate the journey and improve your life."

When asked how Singapore is doing on its restructuring journey, he said a lot of progress has been made.

"In eight years, our economy has grown, our productivity has gone up, our workers' wages have gone up, we have kept our unemployment down, and our employment rates have gone up, for the old people particularly, for the women also. So we've made a lot of progress."

But the journey is not over, he said. "I don't think we'll ever be done. Ten years from now, I'm sure we'll still be talking about productivity growth and upgrading, but 10 years from now, if we do our work right, we'll be in a stronger position than we are today."

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