SINGAPORE - Young people starting on their first job often do not know what to expect and may not even know where to seek help when they face problems, the labour movement found in a study.
As part of its efforts to strengthen its compact with young workers, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) will set up a task force to engage them and gain a better understanding of their work-life needs, said its president Mary Liew and secretary-general Ng Chee Meng in their May Day message on Saturday (April 30).
Mr Ng, speaking to the media ahead of the May Day message, said helping these young workers will be one of the key priorities of NTUC this year.
He cited a study done last year in partnership with the Singapore University of Technology and Design, which found that the top three challenges faced by young people just starting out at work revolved around career opportunities and prospects, finances, and mental health.
The study of 1,039 people, who were mostly between 18 and 35 years old, also found that they would lean on friends and colleagues when they encounter problems at work, instead of, say, seeking help from organisations like the NTUC.
“We think there is a space that NTUC can come in, to enable our youth better than what is available currently,” said Mr Ng.
To this end, the task force will reach out to 10,000 young workers who are aged 25 and below.
The focus on those in this younger age group – and not those who are 35 and below as young workers are commonly defined – will allow the NTUC to truly understand the unique needs, challenges and aspirations of those who are just entering the workforce, said Mr Ng.
He added that once people get married and have children, as is often the case with workers in their 30s, they are in a different stage of life and have different concerns.
The task force will be headed by NTUC assistant secretary-general Desmond Choo and will aim to come up with concrete proposals within the next 12 to 18 months.
In the May Day message, Mr Ng and Ms Liew said: "NTUC has been championing the interests of all workers, at all stages of their careers. Beyond representing our workers at the workplace, we must look at the needs of the workforce of our future – our youth."
They noted that the workforce demographics and workers' aspirations are changing, affected by geopolitical and socio-political shifts.
"No matter the social or political situation of the world, NTUC will renew and strengthen our compact with our workers," they added.
Elaborating on what they will do for different groups of workers, NTUC said that it will work to champion fair workplace opportunities and strengthen the Employment Pass framework to help professionals, managers and executives, particularly those in their 40s and 60s.
For self-employed workers such as platform workers, it will push for better working terms and conditions, and also better medical coverage.
Meanwhile, NTUC will work with companies to redesign job roles and implement flexible work arrangements, to make it easier for women to stay in or return to the workforce.
To help raise salaries of lower-wage workers, it will continue to push for the expansion of the Progressive Wage Model, an industry wage ladder that sets out the minimum basic wages an employer must pay, based on the worker's skills.
As for older workers, the NTUC said it will "spare no effort in ensuring that they are able to re-skill and take on new jobs in the digital economy, and when they retire, they have the adequate means to do so".
Undergirding these plans are efforts to strengthen training for workers so they can keep pace as industries and companies evolve, such as through the formation of company training committees to align workers' training to companies' transformation efforts, said Mr Ng and Ms Liew.
They added that this year, NTUC will focus on establishing tripartite academies in growth sectors to bridge skills gaps and improve job-matching results for workers affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amid rising inflation, Mr Ng and Ms Liew also touched on the NTUC's role in helping workers cope with the cost of living.
They noted that a sustainable way to cope with rising costs is to ensure that workers earn good wages and gain the skills they need to take on higher-value jobs.
As the NTUC works towards that, its social enterprises such as NTUC FairPrice supermarkets will extend their discount schemes for seniors and lower-income families until the end of the year.
This will bring the total amount saved by customers through these schemes, launched in 2015, to $65 million, they added.
"Today, there are many more different worker segments, all of whom identify and resonate with NTUC's values differently. But our core must remain the same – we must continue to protect and advance our workers' interests and uplift all," said Mr Ng and Ms Liew.