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SNEF May Day Message 2024 By President Robert Yap

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28 Apr 2024
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In 20231, the Singapore economy expanded by 1.1 per cent, lower than the 3.8 per cent expansion in 2022. Total employment (excluding migrant domestic workers) grew by 88,400 in 2023 and there were 174 job vacancies for every 100 job seekers in December 20232. A higher proportion of those job vacancies was due to newly created positions.

Despite a tight labour market, the number of workers retrenched rose from 6,440 in 2022 to 14,590 in 2023. The retrenchment was primarily driven by business transformation.

Skills Mismatches
These labour market figures may hint that skills mismatches exist in the labour market as employers transform their business, create new jobs and redesign existing jobs. For employers, the inability to have workers with the right skills would impede their transformation efforts.

Furthermore, there are two longer-term trends that would require employers to think about skills development more strategically and systematically. One, workers would be working longer as the retirement age and reemployment age would be raised to age 65 and 70 respectively by 2030. Two, the half-life of skills is getting shorter which means that some skills could become obsolete as quick as 2.5 years.

While the labour market is still healthy, we need to take proactive actions to nib the problem of skills mismatch in the bud. We need to foster a culture of life-long learning amongst our workers and in our workplaces to maximise the potential of our workforce. Employers should also prepare to hire and train job seekers that may not possess all the required skills yet to widen their access to talent.

Therefore, Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) suggests a three-prong approach to ensure that workers will remain relevant and future-ready to employers.

Closer School-Industry Partnership
With skills requirements changing faster, some of the skills that students acquired would have become less relevant and current by the time they are entering the workforce. The gaps between learnings in schools and skills required by employers could be bridged through closer school-industry partnership.

SNEF has inked several memorandums of understanding with Institutes of higher learnings to strengthen internship programmes and to provide more opportunities for students to be exposed to realistic work environment. Through these efforts, students would better understand what future of work is and be excited by the career opportunities available.

Better Career Planning
After working a few years, new entrants to the workforce will become mid-careers. Concurrently, businesses will continue to transform and workers’ aspirations may change. To help mid-career workers better chart the next phase of their career within the organisation, both employers and their employees should have regular career conversations.

As such, SNEF encourages employers to implement Structured Career Planning (SCP) to seek alignment between their business needs and their employees’ career goals. A SCP session between an employer and an employee can help to identify skill gaps and relevant training for the employee to stay relevant in his existing role or to reskill for a new role. This will enable the employee to have a second wave in his career and contribute to the business.

Deeper Appreciation of Skills
Last but not least, while we seek to grow every worker, we should recognise that career growth should not be just about becoming a supervisor or manager but also to deepen workers’ skills to attain mastery in their occupation.

As the Chinese saying go “行行出状元”. We need to provide alternative pathways to recognise and reward workers who seek skills mastery and become excellent in their job. The society could also play their part by having a deeper appreciation of technical and vocational skills which are critical to business operations and our daily lives. This will also enable employers to attract fresh talent to such job roles.

Going forward where economic situation would be more dynamic, possessing the right skills is one of the best protection for workers to stay employed and grow in their career. Therefore, SNEF is committed to work closely with our tripartite partners to foster a culture of life-long learning in workplaces for both employers and workers to thrive in the future economy.

On behalf of employers, Happy May Day to all workers!

1 Source: Ministry of Trade and Industry
2 Source: Ministry of Manpower