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Indranee says 5,500 new professional services jobs to be generated every year but how many are going to S’poreans?

by Vincent Low

On Wednesday (24 Jan), Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Indranee Rajah launched the Professional Service Industry Transformation Map, a roadmap to transform the professional services sector in Singapore.

She said that professional services is a key growth sector for Singapore.

"Singapore is well-positioned to be a market leader in high-value, specialist services and to capture the demand for such services," she said. "The world of business is rapidly transforming and digitalizing, driven by technology. This will create demand for new services and solutions."

The roadmap projects that the professional services sector will grow at an average rate of 4.6% from 2015 to reach a value-add of $31 billion by 2020 and "generate 5,500 new PMET jobs every year", she added.

It also identifies a number of high-growth areas driven by digitalization and specialized solutions. Analytics and AI are examples of digital capabilities that feature strongly in advertising, consulting and engineering services, she said.

One of the strategies is to equip the workforce with the specialised skillsets to take on new jobs.

"To ensure that we groom more Singaporeans... we are introducing a range of initiatives to help professionals reskill and upskill for specialisations in high-growth areas," she said.

"Under the Adapt & Grow initiative by Workforce Singapore (WSG), we have launched more than 10 Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) relevant to Professional Services. These train PMETs to take on roles ranging from infrastructure projects to digital advertising and HR management. Four new PCPs are being developed to cover professions in Programmatic Advertising, Internal Audit, UX/UI and Building Information Modelling."

However, Ms Indranee did not say how many of the 5,500 new PMET jobs generated by this new govt initiative will be allocated to Singaporeans, despite helping them to "reskill" and "upskill".

More foreign S-Pass and EP holders to come to Singapore

Already, MAS managing director Ravi Menon is advocating getting more foreign S-Pass and EP holders to work in Singapore so as to help increase Singapore's economic growth. He said so in a speech at the Singapore Perspectives 2018 conference on Monday (22 Jan).

"This is not just about numbers but about rejuvenation and expanding our talent base. While we cannot keep increasing our share of foreign workforce indefinitely, we must be flexible in allowing fluctuations in the ratio according to economic cycles, changing circumstances and opportunities."

He went on to talk about "sustaining" Singapore's dynamism. And one of the ways is to increase the number of foreign PMETs in Singapore.

"There is scope to improve the quality of the foreign workforce (in Singapore)," he said. "In fact, more skilled foreign workers will mean that we will need fewer of them," he added.

"The trend of improving quality in our foreign workforce has already begun. The proportion of work-permit holders has declined by about 10 percentage points over the last 10 years, while the proportion of S-Pass and employment pass holders has increased by around 10 percentage points."

And he wants to see Singapore employ even more foreigners with S-Pass and EP in future.

"This trend (employing more foreign S-Pass and EP holders) must continue as we restructure our economy towards higher value-added activities, seek deeper skills and undertake more pervasive digitalisation," he concluded.

"Dynamism is about quality - the quality of our workforce, the quality of our enterprises and the quality of our institutions. It is about high levels of efficiency and productivity."

The government keeps talking about "reskilling" and "upskilling" for Singaporeans but it wouldn't matter if companies don't want to employ them for whatever reasons.

Editor's note -  A point that everyone should always remember and note is that under the Population White Paper, a quota of 30,000 PRs and minimum 15,000 (max 25,000) new citizens is planned for each year. According to how Ministry of Manpower defines local labour, figures of Singaporeans and PRs are lumped together.