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Productivity boosts and less exclusive “Singaporean core” needed: Chan Chun Sing

Chan Chun Sing, labour chief and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, addressed Parliament on 4 April, speaking about measures to minimise structural unemployment and boost productivity levels across a country currently in the midst of an economic slowdown.

While the current economic slowdown is cyclical, Mr Chan also acknowledges that it is also “fundamentally structural.” He cited the need for workers to be equipped with “skills of the future” in order to thrive in a rapidly changing economy, bringing up the example of the shift in the retail industry to an increasing number of sites for online shopping.

To keep up with these changes and to ensure minimal structural unemployment, Mr Chan announced three key measures for workers.

Firstly, efforts to provide career guidance, including career counselling for students, will be ramped up with help from the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) by the end of this year.

Next, the government seeks to ensure that relevant courses are available in order for workers to fully utilise their SkillsFuture credit.

Lastly, efforts will be made to ensure that workers are able to pick themselves up in the case of retrenchment. This includes encouraging workers, especially those above the age of 40, to learn a second skill.

Mr Chan also noted that productivity levels, especially in the construction, retail, and food and beverage industries, were generally low. He highlighted the need to focus not only on newer companies, but on boosting productivity in existing companies as well. With investigations sectionally instead of broad macro reforms, Mr Chan hoped to identify as well as improve sectors which are lagging behind in terms of productivity.

Another concern of Mr Chan is the exclusive attitude when building and searching for talents, where focus is often given more to Singaporeans. He stated that this is an inward-looking perspective, and he seeks to instead build “a diverse team of talents” which would include Singaporeans as well as others from cross-cultural backgrounds. This way, the Singaporean core would be less exclusive, and would not comprise of only Singaporeans.

Developing international exposure for workers was also highlighted as an important factor. Mr Chan cites the overseas work of the Singaporean leaders of oil and gas companies ExxonMobil and Shell, who then returned to manage the the Singapore arms of their companies.

These revamps to the workforce announced by Mr Chan in Parliament are following a dialogue at the at Lifelong Learning Institute in 3 April, where Mr Chan emphasised the need for a strong national identity in order for Singapore to successfully grow to reach SG100.