Singapore worker and government delegates renew commitment with ILO to advance social justice, prepare workers for a future economy

NTUC President Mary Liew: Greater collaboration is necessary to protect vulnerable workers worldwide.
By Ian Tan Hanhonn 09 Jun 2023
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The Singapore Labour Movement will support the International Labour Organization (ILO) in building a coalition for social justice to fight growing inequalities globally, said NTUC President Mary Liew.


Ms Liew spoke on 9 June 2023 at the 111th International Labour Conference in Geneva.


ILO Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo called on member-states to build the coalition at the conference’s opening on 5 June 2023.


He spoke about the deep-seated inequalities that still exist in the fourth industrial revolution, pointing out that around 4 billion people worldwide have no social protection, with about 214 million workers earning below the poverty threshold.


“We need to continue to push harder on this accelerator of social justice. Social justice, which, need we recall, is and remains the cornerstone and the main raison d'être of our organisation,” he said.


As the Singapore Workers’ Delegate at the ILO, Ms Liew agreed that greater global cooperation was needed to pursue social justice.


She said greater collaboration was necessary to protect “the most vulnerable and marginalised, end poverty, ensure equal opportunity, and mitigate inequality and dislocation.”


She also urged tripartite constituents of the ILO must work together at the national and international levels to renew their social contract with all workers.


“There is a need to reconnect with workers to understand their work-related concerns and aspirations whilst envisioning their hopes for a better future,” she said.


NTUC’s refreshed compact with workers


In forging a refreshed compact with workers, Ms Liew shared that NTUC plans to “co-create an economically vibrant and inclusive Singapore, where every worker can have the dignity of making a good living and improving their lives.”


NTUC will scale up its Company Training Committee(CTC) initiative to improve companies’ competitiveness and workers’ employability, do more for the underserved segments of Singapore’s workforce, and establish a culture of innovation within the Labour Movement to better serve the evolving needs of union members.


“By making the Singapore NTUC a stronger Labour Movement, we can be a valued tripartite partner in our national efforts to build a better Singapore with a refreshed social compact to address the challenges faced by workers,” said Ms Liew.


The Government’s commitment to workers


Meanwhile, the Singapore Government will continue to help workers seize new career opportunities as Singapore transforms its economy, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng in his plenary speech on 9 June 2023.


“We will do so by working with our tripartite partners to build up the employment resilience and prospects of our workers,” added Dr Tan.


The Singapore Government will take three steps to help workers achieve their long-term career goals, which Dr Tan termed “good career health.”


He said: “First, we will empower workers with information on career opportunities they can consider and the pathways to get there.


“Second, we will support workers in developing a personalised career plan, with upskilling and reskilling where necessary and taking on career opportunities for growth and development.


“And third, we will study how to provide better support and assurance for displaced workers while nudging them towards active job search and skills upgrading.”


Better support for vulnerable workers


Dr Tan elaborated that helping workers attain good career health complements Singapore’s other strategies to strengthen support for vulnerable workers.


“For lower-wage workers, Singapore adopts a tripartite approach that combines skills upgrading, productivity improvements and career progression pathways so that wage increases are sustainable. We call this the Progressive Wage Model (PWM),” he said.


According to Dr Tan, the PWM helped grow real incomes of lower-wage workers by 4.7 per cent in 2002 – which was faster than the median workers’ 2 per cent growth during the same period.


He shared that nine in 10 full-time lower-wage workers are expected to have benefitted from the PWM by July 2023.


Dr Tan also talked about how Singapore is helping its platform workers and migrant worker community.


He said the Government is working with tripartite partners to introduce legislation that would help platform workers increase their retirement savings, get compensation for injuries while at work, and allow them to be represented in collective bargaining.


As for migrant workers, he shared that the Government has enhanced their medical support by setting up dedicated medical centres across the country and introducing an outpatient healthcare plan for them.


He concluded that the Singapore Government’s approach to uplifting workers aligns with the ILO’s human-centred approach of advancing social justice and promoting decent work.


“Singapore looks forward to continue working with the ILO in preparing for the future of work,” he said.