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Insider: HR and industry leaders share their views on Singapore Budget 2024

Insider: HR and industry leaders share their views on Singapore Budget 2024

With enhanced support for skills upgrading, measures to reduce wage gaps, and more, here's what leaders from NTUC, Dell, Cisco ASEAN and more have to share on how the new initiatives announced will aid organisations.

On 16 February 2024 (Friday), Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Lawrence Wong, delivered the Budget 2024 statement in Parliament. 

DPM Wong shared: "We will tackle immediate challenges for households and businesses, assure better jobs, better growth, and create more paths for quality and mobility, provide more assurance for families and seniors, and forge a stronger and more united nation."

Some of the highlights from Budget 2024 are as follows: 

  • Enhanced support for continuous skills upgrading 
  • Measures to reduce wage gaps 
  • Enhancing support for local businesses 
  • Temporary support for those impacted by layoffs
  • Measures to tackle inflation and cost of living increases

In lieu of the Budget 2024 announcement, HRO has compiled a list of commentaries (excerpts only) from HR and industry leaders how share their views on how the new initiatives announced will aid organisations.

Ng Chee Meng, Secretary-General, NTUC:

"Budget 2024 is a caring, assuring, and stabilising one that aims to grow our workers, businesses and Singaporeans, in a messy world filled with political, social and economic challenges. Whilst it looks to be a tougher year ahead with job security and cost of living being key concerns of workers, Budget 2024 should give workers the assurance and confidence that together we can overcome any challenges that come our way.

"On our part, NTUC Singapore has been calling for support in key areas for our workers such as unemployment support, upskilling, enhancement of the Workfare Income Supplement scheme, and enhancing retirement adequacy. When we concluded our #EveryWorkerMattersConversations last year, we put forth some recommendations to the Government and we are glad to see that our suggestions have been included.

"NTUC will continue to champion your interests and be alongside you!"

Andy Sim, Vice President and Managing Director of Singapore, Dell Technologies:

“As new technologies such as AI continue to emerge and accelerate, it presents new opportunities for businesses that are equipped to harness it, but also poses challenges to employees who are less prepared. 

“Skilling will be key in developing a future-ready workforce, as we see being emphasised in Singapore’s 2024 Budget. Doing so requires a seamless partnership between private and public sector, and we’ve partnered with the Singapore government and institutions of higher learning in Singapore such as the Singapore Institute of Technology and Singapore Management University.” 

He continues: “Beyond economic opportunities, we cannot forget the role of technology in driving human progress. The Singapore government has also emphasised the need for digital technology to create economic and social value and improve lives. Technology companies like Dell are therefore in a prime position to foster and meet the critical drivers of digital inclusion and nurture digital talent, considering their expertise, capabilities, and resources in the field.” 

Melvin Yong, Assistant Secretary-General, NTUC:

"I’m grateful for the measures outlined in the #SGBudget2024 today. The government's commitment to alleviating the rising cost of living and managing inflationary pressures is indeed encouraging. During these challenging times, I am heartened by the government’s focus on supporting our citizens."

He adds: "Separately, NTUC Singapore has been stepping up efforts in helping workers and Singaporeans manage the pressures from rising COL [cost of living]. These include initiatives like NTUC FairPrice recent offering of $8 FairPrice Return Vouchers and providing a 1% discount on 500 essential items to offset the GST increase. Meanwhile, at Kopitiam, union members can also enjoy a breakfast set for as low as S$2.20.

"Looking ahead, NTUC remains committed to supporting our workforce and businesses. We appreciate the government's efforts thus far. Together, let us build a resilient and united Singapore."

Charles Ferguson, General Manager - Asia Pacific, G-P:

"Budget 2024's emphasis on upskilling aligns with Singapore's commitment to nurturing a future-ready workforce. Initiatives like SkillsFuture Level-Up underscore efforts to equip individuals with essential skills including AI competencies. This is well-aligned with the government’s aims to establish AI centres of excellence.  

"Potential collaborations in HR, legal compliance, and payroll with global growth partners can enhance Singapore's appeal, solidifying its position as the leading talent-competitive nation in APAC."

Patrick Tay, Assistant Secretary-General, NTUC: 

"The introduction of the SkillsFuture Level-Up Programme, alongside the S$4,000 credit top-up for mid-career workers aged 40 and above, represents a significant leap forward in promoting continuous skills upgrading. I commend the government's recognition of SkillsFuture as a cornerstone of Singapore's social compact and its commitment to supporting mid-career workers on their skills development journey.

"The emphasis on selected training programs with better employability outcomes ensures that the additional credit is utilised effectively to meet the evolving needs of our workers and businesses.

"The provision of subsidies and monthly training allowances for Singaporeans aged 40 and above enrolling in full-time education courses is a game-changer. It enhances accessibility to lifelong learning opportunities and provides essential financial support to individuals pursuing further education. We deeply appreciate the government's efforts to support individuals throughout their learning journey, ensuring they have the resources to succeed in career transitions."

Peter Chambers, Managing Director - Sales, Asia Pacific, AMD:

"AI will become ubiquitous in 2024 and its use cases will continue to proliferate exponentially. However, the ultimate answer to the technology lies with the most important stakeholders: the employees. AI journey starts with employee buy-in, and that process requires a shift in mindset especially in an environment where close to half of employees are distrusting of the technology. Employees looking to take advantage of the additional S$1bn funding announced today will do well by taking measured steps towards embracing it as opposed to diving headfirst.  

Chambers adds: "Understanding employees’ existing pain points and exploring how AI can address these concerns should form the foundation for any organisation’s AI strategy. Most importantly, the onus falls on organisations to nurture a conducive environment and culture where there is a balance between machine and human intelligence."

Desmond Choo, Assistant Secretary-General, NTUC:

"It addresses workers' immediate cost-of-living (COL) concerns via increasing Workfare Income Supplement and Local Qualifying Salary (LQS) support, i.e., higher wages to tackle COL longer term.

"Facing economic disruptions? The SkillsFuture Level-Up programme will help workers get the confidence to pick up new skills and be resilient in their jobs. And training allowance to help defray loss of income while training (huge bugbear of workers with commitments). The second subsidised diploma (which NTUC and Manpower GPC have lobbied for a long time) will help workers to seize new opportunities.

The leader shares further: "I really like the new ITE Progression Award for graduates 30 and below. S$15k for a headstart in building a career and family. For the Young NTUC team which has worked hard to get more support for ITE students, it will be very satisfying. It will add on to our career support to the students."

Jonathon Dixon, VP & Managing Director, APJC, Cloudflare: 

"The measures announced in this year’s Budget demonstrates Singapore’s push to cement itself as the region’s leading innovation and talent hub. In this regard, Cloudflare is encouraged by schemes such as the National AI Strategy 2.0, upgrading of the National Broadband Network, and increased investments in human capital to help chart our approach concerning nascent technologies, update critical digital infrastructure and help workers refresh their skills and stay competitive. 

"Technological disruption will only amplify as AI becomes more mainstream in the workforce. AI is going to be an integral part of doing business going forward, and the technology has the potential to create new jobs and augment existing ones. The onus will be on all stakeholders involved, including the government, technology companies and educational institutions, to create viable pathways for employees to leverage AI skills and complement the roles they already fulfil at work. The SkillsFuture enhancements announced in the Budget will enable workers to upskill and take on roles in demand, such as those in AI and cybersecurity." 

Heng Chee How, Deputy Secretary-General, NTUC:

"Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong announced in his Budget Speech this afternoon a slew of measures to further boost and bolster the retirement adequacy of older workers. This includes a 1.5 percentage-point increase in CPF contribution rates for older workers aged 55 to 65 starting from January 2025. There are also measures to help those who want to save more for retirement with their CPF funds and earn higher interest with such savings to do so. Older workers will also benefit from progressive implementation of the Majulah Package."

The leader continues: “I have been speaking up for older workers for years both in and outside of Parliament. It warms my heart to see Government take concrete steps year after year to strengthen the employment and financial security of older workers for both the short and long term.”

Jess O'Reilly, Area Vice President for Asia, UiPath:  

"Building a resilient economy that ensures ample employment opportunities will be key to actualising Singapore's vision for the future. We are encouraged by the Government’s plan to allocate over S$1bn over the next five years to take Singapore further in its National AI Strategy 2.0. Coupled with initiatives to plug skill gaps, foster private-public partnerships, and combine education and innovation, Singapore can prime the labour force for growth in the new economy.

"More importantly, democratising innovation will empower workers across all skill levels to embrace digital transformation, and to achieve Singapore’s ambition of becoming a global business and AI hub. To do this, Singapore must turn AI potential into AI results by seamlessly integrating intelligence into everyday operations, automating all knowledge work, upleveling employees to create new value, and revolutionising entire industries.  

"Hence, she notes that it is "heartening to hear that the Singapore Government continues to support digital upskilling and access to learning opportunities with the extension of the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit and the new SkillsFuture Level-Up programme.

"These initiatives will be critical to equip the Singapore workforce with the skills to harness new technologies, to optimise operations and drive further innovation across industries."

Desmond Tan, Deputy Secretary-General, NTUC: 

“Celebrating a milestone today! I’m happy that my calls on training recommendations made during NTUC #EveryWorkerMatters Conversation (EWMC) have been heard by the Government. Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong announced that more training support will be provided to mid-career workers.  

“These support measures will enable mid-career workers to reskill and upskill, and be equipped with new skills for a career transition or be prepared for the future economy.” 

Sujith Abraham, Senior Vice President and General Manager, ASEAN, Salesforce: 

"It is encouraging to see a continued focus on supporting businesses and the workforce as part of this year’s Budget announcements. Rapid AI innovation over the past year has drawn attention to the importance of productivity and workforce efficiency by surfacing new ways of working. The government’s planned investment of S$1bn over the next five years to augment AI technology and talent will democratise access to digital technologies, spur AI innovation and accelerate business transformation. AI is no longer a nice-to-have but an imperative for all businesses to implement and enable their workforce to work with if they don’t want to get left behind. 

"With AI taking a front seat across businesses and for the economy’s success, a right-skilled workforce is critical. The extension of SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit and the introduction of the new SkillsFuture Level-Up Programme for mid-career workers will ensure inclusivity and accessibility for the entire workforce. Today, our studies show lack of training is preventing 38% of Singapore workers from using gen AI more at work. This skills gap will only grow wider with time, as the profile of jobs will augment as AI becomes more pervasive. These incentives will encourage workers to upskill themselves in areas such as digitisation and AI to help Singapore develop a future ready workforce."

Yeo Wan Ling, Assistant Secretary-General, NTUC:  

"It was a very thoughtful Budget 2024 that lays the long-term foundation for how our nation looks at our workers' skills relevancy and progression, our choices for retirement, and supporting our women workers returning to the workplace.

The leader adds: "The expansion of the Matched Retirement Savings Scheme with the increased lifetime cap of up to $20,000 is a innovative move to encourage private-public stakeholdership in uplifting the lives of our less endowed senior loved ones. This no doubt puts more choices for retirement in the hands of our seniors and levels the playing field for lower wage seniors and caregivers who are out of the workforce."

Bee Kheng Tay, President, Cisco ASEAN:

"The Singapore Budget 2024 reiterates the country’s commitment to making sure that no one gets left behind as the country lays the groundwork for long-term digital competitiveness. Additional measures to help businesses and the people of Singapore cope with rising business costs and to encourage innovation while promoting workforce upskilling will play a key role in shaping Singapore’s transformation journey and driving further economic growth."

Fahmi Aliman, Director, Operations & Mobilisation Division, NTUC:

"With DPM Lawrence Wong’s Budget speech earlier, I am glad to hear that the Government is taking concrete steps to uplift lower-wage workers.

"Increased workfare payouts, a higher Local Qualifying Salary, and a higher qualifying income will provide substantial financial support to a larger group of lower-wage workers, particularly our low-wage senior workers. I believe that these schemes will enable our lower-wage workers to benefit financially as their wages grow, and help to cushion increased cost of living.

The leader shares: "Training and upskilling of lower-wage workers must remain top priority for employers so that Singapore, as a whole, can benefit from a more well-skilled workforce. I firmly believe that embarking on a lifelong learning journey means giving workers the opportunity to upskill themselves and learn new knowledge.

"I was glad to hear that this was addressed in today’s Budget speech. The new SkillsFuture Level-Up Programme will help to support mid-career workers (who are aged 40 and above) in their journeys as they are attending training courses to enhance their employability.

He adds: "Lastly, I echo DPM Lawrence Wong when he said that every worker matters in his speech. Today’s speech has given me encouragement, and I will be carefully considering the needs of our lower wage workers in my parliament speech next week."

Pannie Sia, General Manager, ASEAN, Workday 

“The substantial investment in the National AI Strategy 2.0 as announced in Budget 2024, signals a commitment to harnessing the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The move to establish AI centres of excellence will also help to amplify Singapore's innovation capabilities. This will not only attract top-tier talent but will also foster a collaborative environment where cutting-edge ideas can flourish.” 

She adds: “The commitment to upskilling and the support extended in SkillsFuture is also encouraging. Beyond addressing immediate business needs, upskilling and growing talent is important in ensuring the workforce remains competitive. Encouraging businesses to enhance the digital skills of their workforce will create a labour force adept at navigating the evolving technological landscape. The greater support for upskilling aligns seamlessly with the broader strategy of cultivating a skills-based economy.” 

READ MORE: Highlights from Singapore's 2024 Budget Statement impacting employers and HR leaders.

Lead image / DPM Lawrence Wong Facebook 

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