PM Lee addresses job security issues amid COVID-19

He urges leaders to offer more “social support” to Singapore’s vulnerable workers

PM Lee addresses job security issues amid COVID-19

While Singapore has implemented multiple crucial COVID-19 measures like wage support, the government cannot continue them ‘indefinitely’, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

“We have to start thinking about what comes after them — about the level of social support we will return to after COVID-19 is over,” Lee said yesterday (September 2) during a parliament address.

He reminded to expect and prepare for more “economic uncertainty and turbulence” during the new normal and shared the government’s approach to helping varying groups of workers.

Our approach has always been pragmatic and empirical,” he said. “Make the best use of our resources to meet the needs of different groups in our society, in a targeted manner. Because if we help everyone equally, then we are not giving more help to those who need it most.”

READ MORE: Singapore enhances COVID-19 support measures

Older workers
Short-term solutions like unemployment insurance may offer “transient relief” for older workers, but retraining and upskilling individuals will keep individuals relevant and make them less likely to be made redundant, Lee said.

The PM highlighted that these workers tend to draw higher salaries than younger workers, but their skills may be less current.
If they lose their jobs, they find it harder to find another similar job, particularly at the same pay, so they are at greater risk of long-term unemployment,” he said.

Hence when older workers are upskilled, they can find a new job more readily even if they get retrenched.

“This is a structural solution that helps older workers get their careers back on track and feel that he is making a worthwhile contribution,” he said.

“The best unemployment insurance is in fact the assurance of another job.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: PM Lee addresses the 'new normal'

Low-wage workers
Another vulnerable group he urged leaders to support better was low-wage workers.

Low-wage workers are the most vulnerable in the workforce, especially with their greater concerns about their day-to-day living. PM Lee said Singapore needs to support them to improve their lives so “they can catch up” and narrow the gap with the rest of society.

He noted the positive impact of the workfare income supplement and the progressive wage model through the years, and shared an intention to extend the latter to more sectors over time.

However, “greater challenges lie ahead” and Singapore needs to do more and is ready to do more.

“The question is, what more will we need to do and what is the best way to do it?” he said.

Leaders should take some time to assess the landscape after COVID-19 to see how things unfold and what specific problems develop.

He urged Singaporeans to keep an open mind as they develop solutions along the way, and to identify “pragmatic solutions that will make a real difference and not create new problems in the process”.

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