Total Rewards Asia Summit 2024 Singapore
9 recommendations to help PMEs in Singapore with employment and employability: NTUC & SNEF

9 recommendations to help PMEs in Singapore with employment and employability: NTUC & SNEF

The recommendations aim to enhance workplace fairness, provide unemployment support, ensure opportunities for mature PMEs, and support PMEs in skills upgrading.

In August 2021, Singapore's PME Taskforce (PME TF)—comprising the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF)—revealed it is looking to offer more support to local professionals, managers, and executives (PMEs) in four areas—tackling workplace discrimination, offering unemployment support, and increasing upskilling, as well as job opportunities. This came after conducting a series of surveys with over 10,000 PMEs aged between 20 to 60 years old, as well as union & business leaders for one year.

Fast forward to 20 October 2021 (Wednesday), the taskforce has introduced nine concrete recommendations on supporting PMEs in Singapore.

The event, attended by Human Resources Online, saw the launch of the full set of recommendations, in a report addressed to Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng, and signed off by NTUC-SNEF PME Taskforce Members. Speaking at the event, NTUC Secretary-General, Ng Chee Meng said he hopes to have "some clarity" on these recommendations from the government by 2022.

Explaining this entire project, SG Ng said: "PMEs feel the pressure from foreign competition and for mature PMEs, they find it challenging to bounce back when they lose their jobs. Thus, we must do more to level the playing field for our local PMEs, while enabling other forms of employment and employability-related support like unemployment transition support, job search or training support for them."

"These recommendations came about as a reflection of all the ground feedback that we have garnered from PMEs, union leaders, and employers. With their insights, we distilled their key concerns into actionable recommendations, which we will continue to work with the relevant partners to bring to fruition to help our PMEs," NTUC Assistant Secretary-General, Patrick Tay, added.

Continue below to find the recommendations in detail (divided into four key thrusts), as well as excerpts of HRO's doorstop interview with the taskforce.

#1 Enhance workplace fairness

The objective here is to ensure local PMEs receive fair opportunities and treatment when seeking employment or at their workplace, regardless of their age.

Recommendation 1: Enhance fair employment practices through:

  • Improving HR standards, and
  • Strengthening enforcement on errant companies which adopt unfair practices.

Recommendation 2: Strengthen Singaporean core through:

  • Differentiating foreign worker access by occupations;
  • Enhancing EP application review process, and
  • Facilitating skills transfer to local PMEs.

Representing the employers, SNEF President Dr Robert Yap said, “The recommendations do not just seek to help local PMEs to compete effectively and fairly in the local labour market. The recommendations also seek to help them develop deeper skills and gain overseas exposure so that they can be developed to take on regional and global roles.”

Recommendation 3: Widen support for PMEs through review of legislation on PME’s representation by:

  • Setting up a tripartite workgroup to review the scope of union representation of PMEs.

In specific to Recommendation 3, ASG Tay explained that it is important PMEs know that union representation is not limited to certain workers, or sectors, but is a support that is "open to everyone." 

#2 Provide unemployment support and benefits

This is to support PMEs who are involuntarily unemployed, especially the mature PMEs given they take a longer time to return to the workforce.

Recommendation 4: Strengthen unemployment income support for PMEs by:

  • Introducing a national transitionary support framework to provide supplementary income relief and assistance to those who are involuntarily unemployed, supplemented by an active Labour Market Policy, and
  • Providing an additional tier of support for all union members and/or vulnerable mature PMEs.

According to ASG Tay, this recommendation would require "more research and investigation" before execution as, for one, the taskforce is looking to offer "monetary support" which would involve national resources. And, for another, the taskforce has to establish "the trigger event [that would require the support], the amount, and the duration of the support."  

#3 Ensure more hiring opportunities for mature PMEs

Recommendation 5: Assist mature PMEs to transit into meaningful employment through:

  • Short term salary support for companies,
  • Supporting training courses and mentorship programmes for relevant roles,
  • Fast track training programmes with certification.

At this point, Dr Yap urged local PMEs "to take charge of their own career, and be resilient and adaptable to progress and thrive in the future economy." When he, and SG Ng, was asked by HRO which sector of employees should take charge and leverage this particular recommendation, both speakers answered "all sectors" because it is crucial workers "prepare for the future so that they can pivot when the time comes."

Beyond that, Dr Yap said, for this recommendation to be effective, that mindset of lifelong learning "must be there", and workers must "know where they want to be in the future." Which SNEF Executive Director, Sim Gim Guan, then added to Dr Yap's point with an old adage, "when you fail to plan, you plan to fail", that reiterated the importance of career planning to PMEs.

#4 Support PMEs in career progression and skills upgrading

Out of a total of nine recommendations, four focus in this domain, which is around helping PMEs progress in their careers. This includes:

Recommendation 6: Build Singaporean leadership bench strength by:

  • Supporting leadership development programmes for Singaporean PMEs, and
  • Facilitating global development of Singaporean talent.

Recommendation 7: Provide customised career coaching support to PMEs by:

  • Supporting and expanding funding of career coaches to NTUC/SNEF to guide and support PMEs in companies.

Recommendation 8: Develop structured jobs and skills plans for PMEs through:

  • Leveraging NTUC’s Company Training Committees (CTCs) to upskill workers in line with business and industry requirements.

Recommendation 9: Strengthen the nexus between tripartite partners to prepare the workforce for economic transitions and investment pipelines by:

  • Repositioning existing NTUC’s Job Security Council (JSC) as NTUC-SNEF JSC to strengthen the jobs ecosystem;
  • NTUC-SNEF JSC working with MOM and the relevant government agencies to improve the employment prospects and create good jobs for Singaporeans, and
  • Ensuring that training needs are incorporated into Institutes of Higher Learning (IHL) curriculum, in tandem with the fast-changing economic landscape.

With regard to the fourth thrust, Sim said that the taskforce is aiming to transit mature PMEs, as they step closer to retirement, to "in-house career coaches" for their organisation so that they can be tapped on for their "knowledge and network" to help the workers around them.

"As we pivot and transform to the next normal of work, employers and workers alike will have to find new ways and new avenues to navigate the kinks and curves that the uneven and uncertain future presents," he then concluded the recommendations with.


234,000 lower-wage workers in Singapore to benefit from 18 recommendations on wages, jobs, and wellbeing

5 key strategies Singapore employees want in support of their mental wellness

Image / NTUC

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Free newsletter

Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top Human Resources stories.

We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's Human Resources development – for free.

subscribe now open in new window