What’s the “basic issue” of Singapore’s labour market?

The economy continues to generate job opportunities, says trade and industry minister

What’s the “basic issue” of Singapore’s labour market?

Singapore’s resident unemployment rate remained unchanged last quarter -- but the Ministry of Manpower expects redundancies to remain elevated, as some sectors continue to experience cyclical weakness and businesses continue to restructures.

According to Trade and Industry Minister S. Iswaran, the “basic issue” of the labour market is not an insufficiency of jobs, but a mismatch of skills.

“Rapid technological advancements are fundamentally changing the nature of our economy and the work that we do.  To stay competitive and continue to create good jobs for our people, industries have to restructure, business models must adapt, and Singaporeans need to acquire new skills,” said the minister in a speech last Friday. “This is the focus of the Industry Transformation Maps that we are developing for 23 sectors, accounting for 80% of our GDP.”

The economy continues to generate “ample and good” job opportunities despite uncertainties, but he emphasized that these jobs require new skills and capabilities.

“Our challenge is to ensure that Singaporeans, especially those already in the workforce, are willing to learn and acquire skills that are necessary to meet the changing needs of their current industry, or convert to jobs in a new or different industry,” said Iswaran.

Initiatives such as SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) help the country achieve that goal. It provides Singaporeans with education and training opportunities to help them adapt to the changing labour market.

The minister spoke at the 57th graduation ceremony of Singapore Polytechnic’s Professional Adult Continuing Education (PACE) Academy, which had 651 graduands. Iswaran emphasized how the academy has worked closely with industry stakeholders to design and implement its courses. For example, it’s Specialist Diploma in Port Management and Operations is supported by SSG under the Earn and Learn Programme (ELP). It was designed in close collaboration with the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, PSA Corporation, and Jurong Port. “This ensures that the curriculum is validated by the industry.”

To succeed, SSG cannot be just a government initiative, said Iswaran. “We need all stakeholders – industry associations and employers, unions and workers, government agencies and educational institutions – to take ownership, collaborate and build a comprehensive eco-system for the continuous development of skills.”


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