With the opening of parliament today, HRD asks what will be the most contentious labour developments for the government this coming year?
Eugene Tan, associate professor of law and co-director of the Centre for Scholars' Development at Singapore Management University (SMU), told HRD there will be four main areas of consideration.
1) A more productive economy
“With the urgency and drive to transform the economy in the next four to five years, and with productivity and innovation being the defining features of the future economy, dislocations in the labour market cannot be excluded,” Tan said.
“It's not just a shifting of gears but of the economy moving to a different economic highway.”
Managing the resulting manpower shifts in skills, training and re-deployment will have to be skilfully handled by the government, trade unions and employers, he noted.
2) A continued focus on immigration
Another labour-related development for this year and the next few years will be immigration, especially bringing in a transient workforce from overseas.
“The Singaporean workforce is expected to shrink for the first time in 2020. Will Singapore increase the rate at which it welcomes foreign manpower, an issue which is politically sensitive at this time?” Tan said.
Since the government has committed itself to a medium-term review of the Population White Paper by 2020, this will also be a more pressing focus over the next few years.
“Will Singaporeans be less wary of immigration and be more receptive to any plans to augment the workforce and the citizen population?” he asked.
3) Lifelong learning becomes a lifelong habit
The implementation and promotion of the SkillsFuture framework will also be a major issue in parliament this year.
“How Singaporeans embrace the lifelong learning push and advance preparations for a complex workplace environment will also be critical in the next five years with regards to the governments’ economic transformation plans,” he said.
This includes how businesses utilise these training options in the upskilling and re-skilling of staff.
4) The coming of the Silver Tsunami
The final point of issue is Singapore’s ageing population. The government’s drive towards re-employment after the retirement age of 65 will be much stronger, Tan said.
What should HR expect?
With these shifts in focus, businesses can expect the government to engage them on all key initiatives listed above.
“The government will appeal to the tripartite ethos to get employers on board to enhance the success of the key policies,” Tan said.
He added that the government is also predicted to lend a hand with these developments through grants, subsidies and other types of financial incentives. This will aid businesses in the transition through this rapidly-changing manpower landscape.
“The Budget in March this year will be highly anticipated as much for the extent of burden-sharing as for the attempt to rejuvenate the economy as it enters this critical phase,” Tan concluded.
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