Innovation can make workforce more inclusive, says Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say

Workers must also be prepared to adapt and pick up new skills, said  Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say.
Workers must also be prepared to adapt and pick up new skills, said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say. ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

BAD NEUENAHR - Technology and innovation should not be allowed to divide the workforce, but should be used to create better jobs and working conditions for people, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said on Thursday (May 18).

He cited how telecommuting can help people achieve work-life balance and robots can make jobs easier and safer, among other things.

But the positive outcomes will not happen by themselves, he said, which is why the Government, unions and employers in Singapore are working together to transform all the major sectors in Singapore to sustain growth and create jobs.

Alongside this, workers must also be prepared to adapt and pick up new skills, he said, adding that the SkillsFuture movement aims build a culture of lifelong learning and re-skilling.

Mr Lim was speaking to fellow labour ministers at the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting in Bad Neuenahr, Germany, which he attended on Thursday and Friday.

The theme of the meeting was "Towards an Inclusive Future - Shaping the World of Work".

The ministers discussed how efforts in areas such as the promotion of innovation can create job opportunities and boost employment, and contribute to achieving the G20's common goal of strong, sustainable and balanced growth, said the Manpower Ministry in a statement on Friday.

Mr Lim, who made two speeches at the meeting, said faster and more pervasive adoption of technology should be welcomed as it will create better jobs and careers for workers.

With the fast pace of transformation, however, there will be a growing mismatch of jobs and skills.

This makes it vital for governments to help workers re-skill to remain employable, whether it is in the same profession or in different professions, he added.

Mr Lim also spoke about support for working women, saying that Singapore has made progress on this front and seen the employment rate for women aged 25 to 64 rise from 63 per cent to 72 per cent over the last 10 years. This is comparable to the top 10 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

The median wage of women in Singapore has also increased by more than 5 per cent per year in the last 10 years, at the same pace as that for men, he added.

But he said more can be done, as there was still a gender wage gap of 10.3 per cent last year.

To better support women, Singapore aims to raise the adoption rate of flexible work arrangements - such as part-time work and job sharing - by both employers and employees, he said.

It also aims to help women who have taken a break from work to return to working life through initiatives such as "returnships".

Mr Lim said human resources guidelines are being strengthened to get employers to appraise employees based on work outcomes, regardless of whether they are on fixed or flexible work arrangements.

"Women should not have to choose between family and career. We should support them to fulfil their aspirations in both," he said.