Singapore Budget 2017 is being announced later this afternoon [live updates]. It's expected to bring about business-friendly measures, as industry commentators put it, along with a continuing focus on upskilling the local workforce.

To identify the HR wishlist from the budget, Human Resources reached out to HR experts across a range of industries and contexts. From the type of upskilling provided, to the complementarity between local and foreign workers, to avenues of recruitment, and more. Here are our findings.

#1 Increased focus on imparting digital skills

Callum Laing is the Asia CEO of Entrevo, and partner at Unity Group, a Singapore-based M&A advisory firm that is pioneering the "agglomeration" for SMEs and investors alike. Accordingly, his wishlist comprises training support for workers in digital skills - noting that both private and public sectors must take responsibility for this priority.

He shares: "As we bear witness to the era of disruption, it is critical that both public and private sectors dedicate significant resource to upskilling workers while collaborating on such efforts. We are encouraged by the Singapore government’s comprehensive training initiatives, across a variety of sectors, and hope the 2017 budget will reflect that ongoing commitment.

"For the Unity Group schemes to train SME employees to improve digital skills and help re-engineer their businesses to incorporate more digitalised processes would do just that."

#2 Embrace and encourage the freelance economy

Late last year, Jean-Michel Wu was mandated to lead regional expansion for executive search firm Grace Blue Partnership, as Asia Pacific CEO, aiming to open offices in Shanghai, alongside the existing hubs in New York, Singapore and Mumbai.

Based in Singapore, this CEO is looking forward to greater focus on the freelance economy in the budget announcement, given the relatively limited talent pool in certain industries.

He points out: "As the rate of the contingent workforce in the Singapore economy continues to increase, I would like to see whether the government is encouraging and embracing both the strategies and policies in recruiting freelancers, independent contractors, consultants -  in order to overcome the likes of limitations from budget constraints during a downturn, and/or bringing in short-term specialists on a project basis to build internal capabilities, knowing there is a limited talent pool in the marketing and creative industry."

#3 Expand the fund as well as courses for SkillsFuture

As a specialist recruiter with 16 years of experience in agency and in-house recruitment, Regina Tio is in favour of upskilling the workforce, and is hoping for an increase in the investment towards SkillsFuture. "I would like the budget to increase the SkillsFuture fund for Singaporeans to focus on learning and development," she says.

Having worked with organisations such as Misys, ANZ, and HSBC previously, Tio's also wishes for expansion in the SkillsFuture course portfolio. She adds: "For the wishlist for this year's budget, I would like (the government) to enable more training vendors on the list so we could apply the fund to relevant courses."

#4 Flexibility to employ specialist overseas talent

Greater acceptance of specialist, overseas talent is on the wishlist of Singapore-based global expert on self leadership and leading cultures, Andrew Bryant, who urges the government to take an uncompromising stance on the issue for the sake of SME firms.

"My wish is for the budget to recognise the success of Singapore has been about getting the best talent, regardless of whether they are Singaporean," he says.

He adds: "Whilst I understand a government has a duty to protect their own citizens, preventing specialist overseas talent from being employed by SME firms (who are not large enough to fill quotas), who offer specific services, will harm the competitiveness of this island nation."

Ginny Eckblad, co-founder of B2B property-tech startup, echoes this sentiment. She explains: "My request is to have foreign talent in tech.  We're suffering due to the lack in tech talent!"

"It's hard to build a fintech/ insurtech/ xxxtech without tech talent. Many startups and companies I know are now heading to Bangkok or Vietnam for tech talent and it's not always going well."

On a similar topic, Jairo Fernandez, regional SVP of HR at SAP (Asia Pacific and Japan), urges the policy makers to find ways to address the leadership shortage in the region.

#5 It's time to consider unemployment benefits 

In the past year, Singapore has seen a number of significant retrenchment announcements – Resorts World Sentosa let go of 400 employees; Keppel reduced its workforce by about 8,000 in first three quarters of 2016; and most recently, Surbana Jurong was reported to terminate about 50 staff.

It is this issue that Trina Teo, principal consultant at TalentMarché, wants the budget to address - for both employees and small business owners in need. "I think its time the government consider “unemployment benefits” for Singaporeans especially for those who rely on a cheque to cheque for their livelihood and is unable to make ends meet in between jobs," she says.

She adds: "This is a very real issue which is not discussed especially for Singaporeans who do not meet the criteria for social benefits and cannot afford to wait for two months while Ministry of Social and Family Development process or assess their need for financial assistance."

Similarly, she advocates support for business owners who do not have consistent revenue due to lack of clients or delay in client’s ability to pay, giving rise to cash flow issues.

Photo / iStock