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DPM Tharman: It’s time for Singapore to move beyond a two-speed economy

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Singapore’s deputy prime minister (DPM) and coordinating minister for economic and social policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam was conferred the Medal of Honour during the May Day Awards 2017 ceremony on Saturday (May 13), by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

In a statement, he revealed that Singapore has a slow domestic sector where workers earn less, as well as a bigger and more outward-focused sector where workers tend to earn more.

“Singapore’s basic economic challenge is to sustain income growth for the average worker, and for lower-income workers. To do that, Singapore has to deepen our skills, spur innovation in every industry, and move beyond what is currently a two-speed economy,” he shared.

He urged companies wishing to transform their industries to embrace bold and disruptive changes. However, with disruption, people doing traditional jobs can be put out of work. “So we have to help them get into new and good jobs as quickly as possible. That has to be part and parcel of an innovative society,” said Tharman.

ALSO READ: New skills framework launched for Singapore’s maritime industry

Role of companies in an innovative society

The government is working with the Community Development Councils (CDC) to develop SkillsFuture Engage, for individuals to advance their knowledge and skills at each stage of life.

Besides that, companies have to take more responsibility in this effort, Tharman said, noting that there is an absence of a widespread management culture in Singapore of wanting to invest in every member of the team.

“It’s not just an HR function. It’s a management responsibility, and we have to have that much more inclusive culture to be widespread amongst management. That’s what is going to determine our success – whether we can help everyone to keep learning,” he said.

In a conversation with NTUC, Tharman shared: “We are not sparing any effort in helping lower skill workers, and there is more to be done. We must, as much as possible, get them trained and ensure employers treat them fairly,”

“We still do not have a widespread management culture in Singapore of wanting to invest in developing each and every individual in the team. We have to have that much more inclusive culture to be widespread amongst management,” he added.

Digging deeper, responding to the question on how the labour movement can bring about this inclusive culture, Tharman pointed out that “the union movement is working with employers, nudging and pushing them to invest in workers’ learning, and to make full use of government schemes.”

ALSO READ: 1 out of 4 Hongkongers say their company is failing to innovate

Photo/ 123RF

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