Tech can make workforce more inclusive: Swee Say

He shares strategies to boost job creation, working conditions, at G-20 labour meeting

Mr Lim Swee Say and other labour ministers at the G-20 meeting discussed how innovation can boost employment.
Mr Lim Swee Say and other labour ministers at the G-20 meeting discussed how innovation can boost employment.

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.

For instance, telecommuting can help people achieve work-life balance and robots can make jobs easier and safer, he added.

But such positive outcomes will not happen by themselves, he said at the Group of 20 (G-20) Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting in Bad Neuenahr, Germany.

Mr Lim said this is why in Singapore, the Government, unions and employers are working together to transform all the major sectors to sustain growth and create jobs.

Workers must also be prepared to adapt and pick up new skills, he said, adding that the SkillsFuture movement aims to build a culture of lifelong learning and reskilling.

At the meeting over the last two days, Mr Lim and fellow labour ministers discussed how efforts in areas such as promoting innovation can create job opportunities and boost employment, and contribute to achieving the G-20's common goal of strong, sustainable and balanced growth, Singapore's Manpower Ministry said in a statement.

The meeting's theme was Towards An Inclusive Future - Shaping The World Of Work.

Singapore is not a member of the G-20, which comprises the world's 20 largest developed and developing economies, but was invited to attend its meetings by Germany, which holds the rotating presidency this year.

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.

However, there will be a growing mismatch of jobs and skills. This makes it vital for governments to help workers reskill to stay employable, whether in the same profession or a different one, he added.

Mr Lim also spoke about support for working women, saying Singapore has made progress 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 countries.

The median wage of women in Singapore has also risen at the same pace as that for men, but more can be done, as there was still a gender wage gap of 10.3 per cent last year, he said.

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 added.

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

Mr Lim said human resource guidelines are being strengthened to get employers to appraise staff 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 added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2017, with the headline 'Tech can make workforce more inclusive: Swee Say'. Subscribe