Singapore's government has re-iterated its commitment to support local workers, including PMETs to learn new skills in order to survive in a changing economy.
At his May Day Rally speech, Singapore's Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, revealed that under the NTUC-Education and Training Fund, the government will match S$3 — by up to S$150 million — for every S$1 that the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) raises.
The total, the S$200 million fund will be used to generate subsidies for skills-upgrading courses tailored for working adults provided by Institutes of Higher Learning partners, starting with the Nanyang Technological University.
PM Lee urged employers to take full advantage of the schemes the government and local unions are implementing to "help all of the workers to upgrade, uplift yourselves, get new and better jobs".
"It is May Day but I have a message for the employers as well and I ask the employers please be open-minded. You are looking for workers but there are not enough workers," he said.
"What you need are the skills and the fit. The government is helping to train those workers to have the skills and to make the fit for the jobs which the companies have. So the message to the companies, please give a chance to these workers, especially those who are changing jobs. Their knowledge may not be specific to the industry or to the company but they have developed other useful skills."
He touched on three specific areas local employers must do to remain productive amid a changing economy.
These included transforming industries, transforming jobs, and transforming the local workforce in a way that would enable it to keep pace with all other changes.
With regards to industries, PM Lee explained that new business models are disrupting existing ones.
Citing examples such as Uber, Alibaba, Airbnb and Grab, he said the local government will help in “making sure that the new business compete on fair terms with the existing ones”
"With Uber and Grab, we reviewed our rules and through a more level playing field with traditional operators, make sure there is proper regulation, not too much but just what is needed, drivers to be properly qualified, have clean records, and protect commuters."
He added that new jobs are also being created to meet these emerging industries, while old jobs are being lost.
"The problem is not that there are not enough jobs, problem is to match the jobs, workers, skills, and expectations with what jobs are available with what skills are in demand and make sure they can do the jobs. And we get them to marry up. That means we have to prepare our workers for the jobs which are available," he explained.
PM Lee explained he was confident about young professionals, adding that once young people graduate, it is not that difficult for them to find jobs.
"The graduates from the polytechnics and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and universities, they have jobs waiting for them. They have good starting salaries and unlike nearly any other country, we do not have a problem of youth unemployment."
In comparison, check out the minimum salaries professionals in Malaysia earn.
In addition to transforming industries and jobs, PM Lee emphasised Singapore must transform its workforce.
He also noted that with PMETs making up more than half of today’s workforce and expected to take up a larger proportion in the future, they should work more closely with the labour movement.
“Now with more and more PMETs, I think many of the PMETs will benefit from help from the labour movement and the labour movement also needs to reinvent itself to work with the PMETs, help to look after them, represent them, and meet their needs in order to stay relevant. Otherwise your base will shrink, fewer and fewer and fewer rank and file blue collar workers, the unions will be representing less and less and less people and become marginalised,” PM Lee explained.