The 4G leadership will work closely with the Labour Movement to ensure sustained growth and good jobs for all workers.
The Government is fully committed to protect workers’ interest and help them earn a better living amidst the bleak economic outlook, said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong on 1 May 2023 at the May Day Rally, held at the Suntec City Convention Centre.
The 4G Team remains committed to its partnership with the NTUC and Labour Movement and will continue to work closely with them to secure sustained growth and good jobs for all workers, he shared.
“The world today is in dire straits. I know many are worried about Singapore’s prospects in this new environment.
“But just as we found a way through the pandemic, I am confident we can survive the coming storms. Provided we stay united, and uphold the same can-do, never-say-die spirit and daring gumption that has seen us through so many previous crises,” he said.
Mr Wong reiterated Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s concerns facing the global economy, such as the war in Europe, growing US-China tensions and protectionism undermining the multilateral trading system, and how these developments will hinder economic growth and workers’ jobs.
He also said that countries no longer seek win-win cooperation in trade; foreign direct investments are slowing down and becoming more concentrated among countries that are geopolitically aligned; advanced economies are building up their own domestic production capacities – particularly in semi-conductors and clean energy.
And the impact of these events is already being felt here locally, with multinational corporations (MNCs) questioning Singapore’s competitiveness should effective corporate taxes be raised.
He said: “When we talk to MNCs based here about raising our effective corporate tax rates to 15 per cent, they tell us: “yes, we understand this is happening worldwide. Singapore’s incentives used to be ‘best in class’.
“But if your tax rates go up, then Singapore will be less competitive compared to other places.”
Mr Wong cited an example of how Germany is negotiating a $10 billion with Intel to establish a semi-conductor plant in Eastern Germany – more than double what the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) is spending to grow Singapore’s economy in 2023.
He said: “We cannot afford to outbid the big boys just to get MNCs to invest here – we just won’t have enough money to match the competition.
“But what we must have enough of are ingenuity and innovation – guts and gumption. That’s how we will prevail, even when the odds are stacked against us.”
Mr Wong shared that the Government would continue to invest in Singapore’s connectivity infrastructure to meet these new challenges.
Additionally, the Government would continue to deepen Singapore’s innovation capabilities and invest in R&D and innovation with leading global companies.
He noted, however, that these plans will only work if Singaporeans continue to work harder and smarter than others.
“We must always have that something special that convinces the world we are a better bet than most, and that Singapore can always be relied upon to deliver,” he said.
Even as the Government seeks to expand Singapore’s economy, it must also continue to fight the ills of inequality, added Mr Wong.
“However treacherous the terrain ahead, so long as Singapore continues to progress, all Singaporeans must continue to progress – with none among us left behind. This is the only way to keep our country together,” he said.
Citing the Labour Movement’s belief that “jobs are the best form of welfare”, he said the Government is studying how it can invest more in every worker to help them take ownership of their careers.
One of its solutions is through the SkillsFuture initiative.
The Government aims to make skills training and lifelong learning a key pillar of its refreshed compact with workers – paying special attention to those in vocational and technical roles, such as ITE and polytechnic graduates.
“We will help them deepen their skills through different pathways, so they can secure better salaries and career paths in the professions they have trained in and have the aptitude for,” he said.
He added that the Government will work to reduce the barriers to training and work closely with NTUC to support every worker in their journey of lifelong learning.
The Government will also be looking at the feedback gathered from NTUC’s #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations.
To date, the initiative has already reached out to some 40,000 individuals across different life stages.
From the information gathered from the conversations, the Government will study how it can uplift lower-wage workers; professionalise skilled trades; provide unemployment for those involuntarily put out of work; enable all workers to meet their retirement needs.
“We’re looking into all of these issues, and working closely with NTUC on possible solutions, so that we can provide good jobs and opportunities, and better assurance to all workers,” he shared.
Mr Wong shared that the collaborative tripartism Singapore has is one of the country’s most sustainable and competitive advantages.
“The basis of tripartism is the symbiotic relationship between NTUC and the PAP … We share the same objectives – to improve the lives of workers and Singaporeans, promote economic growth for all, and ensure social cohesion and stability,” he said.
Citing the troubled labour actions seen in countries such as France and the UK, he added that Singapore must never allow divisions in society to happen in the country.
“Our tripartite approach ensures that Team Singapore has the best chance of overcoming challenges and seizing new opportunities,” he said.
Singapore National Employers Federation President Robert Yap agreed with Mr Wong’s views on the Government’s need to strengthen its compact with workers, as well as the labour challenges facing many countries today.
“These are situations that all countries [not just Singapore] are facing around the world.
“But we [can] manage it better. Because, like DPM mentioned, we have the secret recipe of tripartism which we have built over the last six decades, which has given us a strong foundation to excel and to meet the challenges, and to be better than the competition.”
NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay welcomed Mr Wong’s inputs, especially the focus given to upskilling workers through the SkillsFuture initiative.
“I think that this is particularly important as it ensures the employment and employability of our workers,” said Mr Tay.
Mr Tay added what was said by Mr Wong on – innovation, ingenuity, guts and gumption – will help the nation pave its way through the challenges of tomorrow.
“It is very important that with these four words we move ahead to ensure all our workers, including our employers, stay ready, relevant and resilient – to be ready with new skills, relevant to the new jobs, and resilient to the new changes,” he added.