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Screenshot of Channel News Asia's report on the launch.

Iswaran launches roadmap for marine sector to create 1,500 new jobs to replace 40,000 lost last 2 years

by Vincent Low

Minister of Trade and Industry Iswaran launched the Industry Transformation Map (ITM) for the marine and offshore engineering industry sector on Thursday (22 Feb).

It is envisaged that 1,500 new jobs will be added to the marine and offshore engineering sector through this roadmap, which was developed by EDB together with other govt agencies.

The roadmap is supposed to also help contribute $5.8 billion to Singapore's GDP by 2025.

The roadmap calls for:

  • pursuing new growth areas such as liquified natural gas and offshore renewables
  • helping companies acquire digital capabilities
  • upgrading Singaporeans with the relevant skills to take on new job roles in the sector

Speaking at the launch, Iswaran said the industry "can be cautiously optimistic" if it can deepen capabilities to "seize opportunities".

40,000 workers retrenched in last 2 years

Since early 2016, the marine and offshore engineering sector has been hit by slump in global oil prices.

Mr Tommy Goh, President of the Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Employees' Union (SMEEU), noted that 40,000 workers have since been retrenched including those whose contracts were not renewed.

Iswaran told reporters that although the 1,500 new jobs added to the sector is less than the number of people retrenched, the focus of the ITM is about "creating high-value jobs".

But he did not say if more "high-skilled" foreigners will be recruited to fill the 1,500 positions of these "high-value jobs".

Chan: "I’ve no problem employing the high-skilled foreigners to come here"

In an interview with ST, which was published on 11 Feb, potential 4th generation PM Chan Chun Sing said that the Government wants to encourage a shift towards employing more higher value-added foreign workers (i.e, foreign PMETs).

"I've no problem employing the high-skilled foreigners to come here - we have done that ever since the 1960s - but there must be a process of localisation whereby my own domestic workers, my own local workforce, can progress," he said.

Separately, second Manpower Minister Josephine Teo also wanted to have more foreigners working here.

It is possible to maintain flat employment levels, with no increase in the number of locals or foreigners, but that may not be ideal, she said. Realistically, the workforce needs a little bit of growth to support "enterprise activity", she added.

Last month (22 Jan), Managing Director of Monetary Authority of Singapore, Ravi Menon gave a speech at an IPS conference highlighting the need for Singapore to hire more foreign PMETs.

"There is scope to improve the quality of the foreign workforce," he said.

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

And he wants this trend, that is, the hiring of more foreign PMETS, to continue as "we restructure our economy towards higher value-added activities, seek deeper skills, and undertake more pervasive digitalisation".

He also argued that there must be some flexibility in the local-to-foreigner ratio to "match economic cycles, changing circumstances and opportunities".

Ms Teo agreed, "If the only way in which businesses can grow is by taking employees from other businesses, there will be more friction. So you have to allow for a little bit of growth." That is, she meant changing the rules to allow for "a little bit" of growth in foreign PMET population.