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Minister Josephine Teo on reskilling, foreign manpower, retirement, and more

In her first media interview since being appointed Manpower Minister, Josephine Teo spoke about a number of manpower issues, including reskilling of workers through Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP), foreign manpower, retirement, and more.

Shift in focus of PCPs to redeployment

On the topic of reskilling, Minister Teo told The Straits Times that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will work more closely with economic agencies and companies to retrain workers for new roles being created in their companies before they are retrenched.

In line with that, she has called for more PCPs to be geared towards such redeployment, noting that this shift in focus "would work better not just from the individual standpoint, but also help the companies meet emerging manpower needs," as well as save time on having to hire new staff.

The MOM will work more closely with economic agencies like the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Economic Development Board to talk to companies and find out their transformation plans, to identify these jobs.

While she noted the labour market has improved compared to last year, Minister Teo said jobs and skills mismatches are bound to become more common, with restructuring picking up pace.

Hence, the move is in line with her top priority - to ensure Singaporeans who want to work have a job.

Foreign manpower growth continue to be moderated

During the interview, the manpower minister also spoke about the country's foreign manpower policy, noting that a relaxation of the policies was not tenable in the long run, even if it would solve the manpower crunch for now.

"The problem is that doing so today creates a bigger problem for the future. In the coming decade, resident workforce growth will slow, and businesses will face an even tighter labour market," she said.

In that line, the government will continue to moderate growth of foreign manpower. That said, the government would continue to help businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises.

For instance, companies will get support to improve productivity, and some will also be given selective flexibility to hire skilled foreign workers who can transfer their skills to Singaporean workers.

Workgroup to look into retirement age, CPF contribution rates

On the issues of retirement, Minister Teo noted the need to relook on whether Singaporeans have enough to retire on, The Straits Times reported.

One in two Singaporeans aged 65 today expected to live beyond 85, and one in three to live beyond 90, she noted people will need to save more during their working years.

With that in mind, Teo has asked the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers to look into whether changes are needed on the retirement age of 62 and re-employment age of up to 67, and if so, when they should be made. It will also relook the impact of Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates on retirement adequacy of older workers.

The group, chaired by MOM's Permanent Secretary Aubeck Kam, will conduct focus group discussions, and gather feedback from workers, employers and the public.

She hoped this would be able to "shed some light on their initial thoughts" by the time Parliament debates the budgets of each ministry during the Committee of Supply debates next year.

Minister Teo, labour chief Ng Chee Meng and Singapore National Employers Federation's (SNEF) Dr Robert Yap are advisors to the group, which includes members from the ministries of Manpower, Education and Health, as well as the National Trades Union Congress and SNEF.

Proposed changes to Employment Act to be introduced by end 2018

Additionally, the manpower minister gave an update on the review of the Employment Act, saying the ministry is planning for the proposed changes to be introduced in Parliament for debate before the end of the year.

"We are making good progress, I think we're on schedule to get it passed before the end of the year," she added.

Currently, professionals, managers and executives earning more than $4,500 a month are not covered under the Act, but with the review they may be accorded the same basic protections like receiving their salary on time.

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