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Singapore's labour market to tighten "dramatically"

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Employers can expect Singapore's local employment growth to slow dramatically in the next few years, dropping from the base of 95,000 last year to around 20,000 per annum in the last part of this decade.

With this in mind, the Minister for Manpower, Tan Chuan-Jin stressed on the need for a lean workforce, while leveraging on technology to improve productivity.

This also means that for upskilling initiatives like SkillsFuture to be successful, employers, individuals, and training providers must all play their part, he said in a speech in Parliament yesterday.

Labour market composition

The tightening of the labour market, started by the government in 2010, has moderated the growth of foreign workforce from about 80,000 in 2011, to 26,000 last year.

"This is not because we have become manpower lean," said the Minister.

Rather, companies have resorted to hiring more local workers instead of economising on manpower, leading to local employment growth of 95,000 in 2014, more than twice of the 38,000 in 2011.

While more jobs for locals is "a good thing", Chuan-Jin warned companies that this high rate of local hiring will not last, due to the exit of Baby Boomers from the workforce.

ALSO READ: Favourable job prospects for Singapore’s graduates

"If businesses do not become manpower-lean, if they do not become more productive, they will have great difficulties in finding enough manpower – be it local or foreign – to run their operations."

One way to do this, he said, was to leverage technology, taking the example of how DBS Bank is using the supercomputer IBM Watson, to create tailored reports for its relationship managers, helping them gain hours daily.

Implementation of SkillsFuture

Pointing to the responsibility of employers in developing career pathways and fair remuneration scheme, Chuan-Jin said they have to shift away from a “plug and play” mindset to one which proactively develops every one of their workers.

"Today, many employers say that they cannot find Singaporeans with the right experience. But we all know no one is born with experience, it takes time and deliberate effort to develop this experience in our employees."

He also addressed concerns that some employers may cut costs by asking their workers to co-fund the cost of their training using their SkillsFuture Credit.

"Let me be very clear that the credits are meant to support training initiated by individuals, not to fund training which employers send them for," he said.

ALSO READ: Highlights of Singapore Budget 2015

Image: Shutterstock

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