Workers, businesses have to adapt to changes in work: President Halimah in May Day message

People's relationship with work has evolved, said President Halimah Yacob. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - Employers and workers need to adjust to the new realities of a work environment that has been fundamentally changed by the Covid-19 pandemic, said President Halimah Yacob on Friday (April 29) in her May Day message.

First, hybrid work is here to stay, with the pandemic showing that remote working is not only possible, but also helps address the needs of working families by allowing flexibility in care arrangements, she noted in the video posted on Facebook.

Second, people's relationship with work has also evolved, and while work will continue to be an integral part of their existence, many are no longer prepared to devote their life solely to work, she added.

This will require employers to be more creative in managing their staff and in building workplaces that are more fulfilling, said Madam Halimah.

Third, Covid-19 has spurred the growth of platform work or freelance work, both because of a lack of other options as well as the flexibility that such work provides, she added.

Yet, such jobs often do not allow people to save enough for their retirement and healthcare needs, and many countries are now grappling with the issue of how to better protect such workers, she said.

Noting that some countries have passed laws to protect gig workers, Madam Halimah added: "It is important to tackle this issue as our current social security coverage in Singapore is largely premised on full-time employment, whereas the labour market today is more diverse and fragmented."

Meanwhile, although the business outlook will improve with the opening of borders, Singapore faces global headwinds sparked by the move towards deglobalisation and the changing geopolitical landscape, she said.

Supply chain disruptions due to Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine have led countries to try to bring production of goods back home, while the worsening relationship between the United States and China has made the bifurcation of technology and supply chains a looming concern, she added.

The high rate of inflation as a result of rising energy and commodity prices also threatens economies and social cohesion, she said.

"How Singapore manages these ongoing challenges is important to ensure our relevance and place on the global stage in the ensuing years," she added.

In this regard, Singapore has an advantage in its highly skilled, disciplined and adaptable workforce as well as its good infrastructure and pro-business environment.

Madam Halimah noted that Singapore is also working to attain sustainable growth by harnessing technology, innovation and digitalisation.

She added: "Finally, we have good labour management relations providing stability for the economy and businesses to grow and create good jobs for our people."

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