Recommendations to address the needs of Singapore's key worker groups

Recommendations to address the needs of Singapore's key worker groups

Part of Singapore's 'renewed workers' compact', the recommendations cover fair employment and training opportunities for older workers, protected time-off for workers to undergo training, and more.

Singapore's National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) held the closing event for its #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations (#EWMC) at the NTUC Centre on 29 September 2023, Friday.

Launched in August 2022, #EWMC is a public engagement exercise over the year that aimed to engage workers from different ages, collars and sectors to understand their needs, challenges and aspirations at work and in their daily lives. closing event was graced by Guest-of-Honour, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong, and hosted by NTUC President Mary Liew and NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng.

As part of the #EWMC, NTUC engaged over 42,000 workers in Singapore to hear their views about work, surpassing the initial target of 20,000. The findings and recommendations derived from these engagements were presented in the #EWMC report which will allow NTUC to shape a Renewed Workers’ Compact to guide the next phase of championing workers’ interests.

A Renewed Workers’ Compact

Concluding the year-long initiative, NTUC presented an overview of salient insights and recommendations from the #EWMC report at the closing. SG Ng further elaborated on the journey that NTUC will take for the years to come as they continue advocating for workers. Thereafter, a panel dialogue session was held to discuss how these recommendations will impact workers and meet work-life needs.

In 1969, NTUC organised the “Modernisation Seminar” to revive the labour movement in an era when workers felt that trade unions were not effectively representing their interests, putting forth a new direction and new principles for a reinvigorated labour movement. In a similar vein, #EWMC aims to help NTUC understand workers’ current needs, the key enablers to help them succeed in their careers, and the support they require at every life stage. 

The announced Renewed Workers’ Compact will help NTUC forge strong relationships with workers and journey with them through every life stage. Armed with the new insights and ideas, NTUC will also work closely with tripartite partners to push out these recommendations in order to co-create an economically vibrant Singapore. The key worker groups that NTUC has identified are youths, mid-career workers, caregivers, older workers and vulnerable workers.

The #EWMC has shown that work and life concerns are closely intertwined — a common denominator across all worker groups is that all workers desire autonomy in their work and life decisions, endeavour to remain adaptable and resilient in a volatile and dynamic economy, and seek assurance that they will be supported if they face challenges at each life stage.

Autonomy in work and life decisions: 

  • Youths crave a deeper sense of purpose at work and desire the flexibility to explore their own career trajectories through internships and mentorships.
  • At the opposite end of the age spectrum, older workers also indicated that they aspire to engage in meaningful, dignified work. Threats to their sense of dignity include age discrimination and perceptions of redundancy.
  • Caregivers, faced with increasing responsibilities as Singapore ages, hope for better work-life harmony so that they may be empowered to continue caregiving while pursuing their career aspirations.

Adaptability in an open and dynamic economy:

  • Workers across age groups recognise the importance of adaptability, upskilling and staying competitive amidst increasing rates of skills obsolescence.
  • Midcareer workers expressed a higher level of anxiety regarding job loss and staying relevant in rapidly evolving industries. As the findings suggest, more needs to be done to help mid-career workers enhance their career prospects and meet industry demands through upskilling.
  • Similarly, older workers face a high risk of skill obsolescence and wish for fair employment and age-inclusive training opportunities.
  • With a rising interest in side hustles, youths are looking for adaptable workplaces to accommodate diverse career aspirations and evolving needs.

Assurance for challenges faced in life:

  • Vulnerable workers, comprising of lower-wage workers (LWWs) and self-employed persons (SEPs), face financial insecurity, a lack of awareness of how they may pursue training and career progression, and inadequate resources for unexpected crises and for retirement. These issues are compounded with rising costs of living.
  • Proposed recommendations to expand the progressive wage framework and professionalise skilled trades could uplift LWWs with better wages and work prospects.
  • Likewise, older workers who are concerned with retirement adequacy seek greater assurance that they will be taken care of if they have dedicated their lives to hard work. 

SG Ng commented: “NTUC wants to reaffirm our compact with workers, including PMEs. Having heard from over 42,000 working people, we have a deeper understanding of their anxieties and aspirations. We will do our best to support them throughout their life stages. In this renewed compact, all of us have important parts to play.”

Details on the 10 recommendations listed:


Recommendation #1: Youths need a more comprehensive system of support.

  • Opportunities to gain quality internship experiences.
  • Opportunities for career exploration and mentorship.
  • Enhanced financial literacy education.
  • Government to consider lowering the eligibility age for use of SkillsFuture credits.

Recommendation #2: Workplaces to adapt to diverse career aspirations and needs

  • Government to expand career pathways, including through Work-Study programmes and enhancing funding support.
  • Support for in-school youths and young workers to obtain overseas work exposure.
  • Workplaces of the future to consider possibility of their employees undertaking side hustles.
  • Strengthen mental health peer support at the workplace.


Recommendation #3: Workers should be equipped to transition to more resilient career pathways

  • Short-term unemployment support for the involuntarily displaced.
  • Tripartite collaboration to prepare workers for the green transition.

Recommendation #4: Training ecosystem should support the acquisition of deep skills throughout life

  • Government training allowance for workers undergoing longer courses to acquire new deep skills.
  • Protected time-off for training purposes beyond mandatory training, such as for personal development.
  • Skills allowance to provide financial recognition to workers who go for training to translate training into outcomes.
  • Government to expand subsidies for second diplomas or degrees.
  • Mentorship for and by professionals, managers and executives.


Recommendation #5: Workers need access to more flexible work arrangements (FWA) to manage unique caregiving needs

  • More encouragement for employers to undertake job redesign to offer FWA that meet caregivers' needs.
  • Employers to disclose the details and types of FWA offered in job advertisements.
  • Tripartite partners should strengthen the value of the Tripartite Standards logo in helping workers to identify progressive employers offering FWA during their job searches.

Recommendation #6: Workers need more support to manage work and caregiving, especially for elderly family members

  • More paid caregiving leave to to support caregivers.
  • Unpaid leave for unexpected care needs.
  • Enhance employee support schemes for elderly family members.
  • Improve accessibility and affordability of eldercare.

Older workers:

Recommendation #7: Older workers should have fair employment and training opportunities in a multi-generational workforce.

  • Employers to provide equal training opportunities for older workers.
  • Employers to leverage job redesign to create inclusive work environments
  • More platforms to curate micro-jobs.

Recommendation #8: Workers who have consistently been in employment should have basic retirement adequacy.

  • More support for vulnerable workers to reach their Basic Retirement Sum.

Vulnerable workers:

Recommendation #9: Essential workers should be recognised, respected, and rewarded.

  • Progressive Wage Model to cover more lower-wage workers.
  • Career Progression Model to professionalise skilled trades.

Recommendation #10: Self-employed persons (SEPs) should enjoy stronger representation and better protection.

  • Better protection and prospects for more groups of SEPs.

Full list of recommendations here.

Lead image / NTUC

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