Goodbye Tan, hello Lim

Tan Chuan-Jin reflects on four key aspects of his time MOM, with today marking the end of an era.

Goodbye Tan, hello Lim
Singapore’s outgoing Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday highlighted the role’s 
responsibility to manage “very divergent interests”; tackling important national issues such as building a skilled, future-proof workforce and restructuring the economy to be more manpower-lean.

His sentiments echoed that of incoming Manpower Minister – as of today – Lim Swee Say who last week expressed loyalties for both workers and employers in his final May Day message as the outgoing National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) secretary-general.

In a blog post yesterday – his last day at MOM’s helm – Tan Chuan-Jin paid tribute to his colleagues and shared four reflections regarding the work of MOM:

Reflection #1: Doing what is right – balancing different interests and never forgetting the individuals

“Employers would like to have a more expansive manpower approach so that they can have easier access to more manpower,” said Tan.

“But some Singaporeans feel we are not tight enough and not protecting Singaporeans workers adequately.”

The correct way to address this way by keeping manpower growth tight “even if companies aren’t always happy”, Tan said.

“We need to be more manpower-lean and productive.

“At the end of the day, Singaporeans must benefit from all that we do. Statistics are not just numbers, there are people and lives behind every data reference points.”

Reflection #2: Tripartism is a key strength

Tan confessed that he did not fully appreciate the importance of strong tripartite relations when he first joined MOM, but soon learned that it was “one major reason accounting for why Singapore has one of the most efficient and effective labour markets in the world”.

“I know of some people who seem to have the misimpression that tripartism is not important because industrial relations in Singapore are stable and calm,” he said. 

“Employers and the labour movement have legitimate concerns that pull in different directions, in areas such as operating costs and wages.  These are robustly debated, but we are fortunate that the underlying trust between the parties and the willingness to look at longer-term common interests has led to win-win solutions, rather than gridlocks or divisions.”

Reflection #3: Let’s look after all our workers better

Tan said there was a need to recognise the “good work and contributions of hardworking foreigners who come here to make their living”.

“They are an important part of our economy. Many do the work that Singaporeans don't want to do. We can do our part to ensure their well-being and that their experience working here will be as pleasant as possible.”

Reflection #4: Dealing with retirement adequacy is not easy

Enabling Singaporeans to retire more comfortably in their golden years has always been one of MOM’s foremost concerns, Tan said.

“In this spirit, we have increased CPF (Central Provident Fund) contribution rates and salary ceilings, and enhanced CPF Life.

“The options are there, but we need to make the best of them. It starts from having the self-discipline to consistently save and prepare for our retirement years.”

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