SINGAPORE - While the conflict between Russia and Ukraine will affect the Singapore economy in the near term, it is manpower that will pose challenges to growth in the longer term, said Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) president Robert Yap on Thursday (April 28) in his May Day message.
To tackle manpower crunch, employers have to tap technology to redesign jobs and help their workers get relevant skills, and need continued access to foreign manpower for Singapore to stay competitive, he added.
Singapore's economy rebounded by 7.6 per cent last year after contracting by 4.1 per cent in 2020, and the total number of people employed grew by 41,400 last year, following a fall of 166,600 the year before when the pandemic first hit the country.
With the easing of Covid-19 curbs, the manpower crunch is expected to worsen.
Employers have been working with unions and the Government to tackle manpower challenges to sustain growth, said Mr Yap.
Employers should leverage technology to redesign jobs so as to become more productive, he said.
He encouraged companies to make use of the Productivity Solutions Grant, which defrays up to 80 per cent of the cost for small and medium-sized enterprises looking to adopt digital solutions.
He noted that with jobs redesigned, employers will need to ensure that their workers' skills remain relevant.
To this end, the SNEF supports the efforts by the National Trades Union Congress to form more company training committees that support employers in training their workers, he said.
He added that workers too will benefit from redesigned jobs that would bring higher wages.
Amid a slower growth of the local workforce, Singapore's labour market also needs to remain open to foreigners who can complement the Singaporean workforce, said Mr Yap.
"Employers need access to foreign manpower to address skill shortages and gaps to keep our economy one of the most competitive in the world," he added.
At the same time, he urged employers to step up their efforts in developing the Singaporean core in the workforce, through tapping government schemes like the SGUnited Mid-career Pathways programme and Singapore Global Executive Programme, which provide training and attachment opportunities for workers.
Mr Yap said the SNEF will work with its tripartite partners, the unions and the Government, to make workplaces more progressive and inclusive so that workers, including older workers, lower-wage workers and professionals, managers and executives, can have better jobs, wages and prospects.
"This would enable Singapore to maintain its competitiveness and workplace harmony to sustain economic growth for a brighter future for all," he added.