by Roy Ngerng
What Chan Chun Sing says on a theoretical level isn’t inaccurate – we need to develop life long learning for the new digitized economy.
What the problem is, however, is that the PAP’s strategy contradicts with one another.
Preparing workers for the new digitalized economy means preparing them to be adaptable and flexible, and to thereby provide them with the learning resources as well as with unemployment protection, so that in the new economy where jobs are could be more easily lost, people are provided a safeguard as they seek another new job.
The problem with the PAP is that while what Chan Chun Sing says is sound – that we need to prepare workers for the new digitalized economy, their policies do not support it.
We cannot be providing citizens with temporary learning credits. We need to ensure education at all levels is easily accessible – from vocational to tertiary education. We therefore need to ensure education is free (as in the Nordic countries), so that workers can easily take a break, acquire new skills, and then go back to the workforce.
Our imaginations of what constitutes white collar work has to change as well. Vocational learning, and learning of specific technical skills, would become increasingly important, and the gap between the wages of white and blue collar workers, as well as between the different educational levels have to be narrowed, because they will increasingly overlap.
At the same time, workers will fall in and out of jobs more frequently, as the gig economy also becomes more commonplace. This means that we need to provide a stable unemployment benefit scheme, as well as to look at wage protection in different types of jobs, so that when workers fall out of jobs, they are still secure as they seek a new job or training opportunities. Also, they will be secure when they enter into short-term jobs which can guarantee minimum wage protections, while also possibly provide on-the-job training.
As such, while what Chan Chun Sing say is sound on a theoretical level, PAP’s policies contradict what he says because education in Singapore is too expensive, and there are no wage or unemployment protection. Workers cannot easily transit into training due to the high costs. Singapore under the PAP is therefore unable to provide the holistic support required to enable Singapore’s workers to transit into the new economy.
In other words, the PAP’s want to profit off workers and social protection schemes necessarily contradict with their said objectives, and with the transformational opportunity of Singapore.
Until the PAP and the elite connected to them are willing to forgo their profit-motive orientation, their policies will not be able to adapt to the new digitalized economy. The PAP will fail, and together with it, the Singaporean workforce.
COVID-19 presented as an opportunity for the PAP to adopt new working models. Unfortunately, they continue to resist minimum wage and unemployment benefits. These policies are the fundamental basics that we need to get right, so that we can then build upon for the new digitalized economy.
As such, as long as the PAP remains in power with its rigid and self-serving profit orientation, the strategy PAP is adopting will slowly render the Singaporean workforce less equipped for the new digitalized economy.
What we need are transformational mindsets, not scholars who are trying to maintain a system.
This post is written in response to Chan Chun Sing’s interview with CNBC: