Why It Matters

Move to help PMETs timely

For professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), who make up the majority of residents who lose their jobs, redundancy is a growing worry as disruptive technology gains ground.

One major anxiety is a lack of skills in using the new technology that is changing the nature of jobs. Another is that entire job functions may be replaced by automation. In banking and finance, for example, algorithms can automate trading. In media, computer programs that can write articles based on company reports are gaining traction.

In the face of these revolutionary changes, the Government's latest move to appoint five political office holders to oversee efforts to shepherd workers into growth industries may allay some fears.

A significant step has been taken. The Government has pinpointed five industries that are most at risk of technological disruption but which also hold "tremendous potential" in producing new jobs.

These are healthcare, wholesale trade, infocomm and media, financial services and professional services. They are not small sectors. Together, they employ almost one million people, which is more than a quarter of Singapore's working population.

Also, about half of the new jobs in the next few years will probably be from these industries.

As government agencies, employers and unions collaborate to identify skills gaps and job opportunities, they can provide clearer direction on the training resources and courses that are needed to arm workers with the relevant skills.

These efforts can also persuade employers to hire less experienced workers from other sectors who are keen to break into these industries.

Questions, however, remain: Will there be enough new jobs to take the place of the jobs that will vanish?

Not all the new jobs will be glamorous or high- paying. Some may require intensive and extensive training. Will PMETs have the grit and patience to learn new skills to stay ahead? Perhaps. Meanwhile, more can be done to help them understand the five growth sectors and the promising jobs there.

Correction note: In an earlier version of the story, we said that half of the new PMET jobs created each year will likely be from the five growth industries. This was based on statistics in a Facebook post by Second Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo. MOM has since clarified that the figures were meant to describe total jobs created, not just those for PMETs. The ministry does not forecast the types of jobs created.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2017, with the headline 'Move to help PMETs timely'. Print Edition | Subscribe