Singapore workers will get help to take on new jobs: PM Lee Hsien Loong

Govt will also help businesses upgrade and create good jobs for Singaporeans, he says

PM Lee Hsien Loong at the dialogue with some 300 labour leaders on Tuesday (Nov 1). ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last night addressed concerns that workers had about jobs, as he outlined what the Government was doing to help businesses upgrade and create good jobs, and Singaporeans acquire skills for these jobs.

At the same time, the labour movement and Manpower Ministry will make sure workers facing layoffs are treated fairly, and match them with available jobs, he said at a National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) dialogue.

NTUC also announced the formation of a unit to identify future job trends, and match and train workers to take on the jobs.

The economy is slowing, Mr Lee noted, but Singapore is not in a crisis as it was when the 2008 global financial crisis hit.

A longer-term strategy is in place to grow the economy and create jobs, he told union leaders.

Mr Lee said that in 2008, the Government introduced measures that lowered business costs and protected jobs, and the medicine worked. "We recovered swiftly."

But today, the problem is structural, he said. "What we need now is not an emergency package, but a consistent longer-term strategy to go for growth," he added.

"It is not an infection that can be cured with one course of antibiotics... but taking vitamins daily (and) following a rigorous exercise and training programme."

Meanwhile, workers who lose their jobs amid these upheavals will get help. He noted that there are 63,000 jobs available at the National Jobs Bank and 13,000 workers have been placed this year, with more ready to be matched in 2017.

But workers need to do their part as well by adapting, he added. "(They) have to let old jobs go and get into new jobs."

In his speech before his closed-door dialogue, Mr Lee painted in broad strokes a picture of preparedness anchored by a broad strategy and what more is needed.

In this, workers, businesses and the Government each have a role to play, Mr Lee said, as he spelt out what they needed to do.

Workers can tap programmes under SkillsFuture to upgrade their skills.

Singling out professionals, managers, executives and technicians, he said these PMETs will get "personalised attention" in job matching because their skills are more specific.

Help for companies will cover 23 sectors representing about 80 per cent of the economy. They will get individual road maps that will transform them as well as help small and medium-sized enterprises.

Mr Lee is confident the various measures will bear fruit and one reason is the strong tripartite relations between unions, employers and the Government: "If any country can succeed, Singapore can."

Union leader Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab said Mr Lee's assurance to workers was timely. "The jobs are still there. My responsibility now is to bring the message to workers and prepare them for these jobs."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2016, with the headline Singapore workers will get help to take on new jobs: PM Lee Hsien Loong. Subscribe