Sunday 30 December 2012

Tan Chuan-Jin to focus on productivity, labour ties

By Janice Heng, The Straits Times, 29 Dec 2012

STRENGTHENING industrial relations and increasing productivity will be among key areas to improve on in 2013 - a year "likely to be challenging", said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin yesterday.

He said 2012 was "a reasonably decent year" with real median income growing nearly 1 per cent, citizen unemployment staying low and improved laws to protect foreign workers.

Yet there is room for improvement in areas such as workplace safety, labour relations and looking after vulnerable workers.

For instance, tripartite partners "will have to work even harder to strengthen industrial relations", he said, adding that last month's bus drivers' strike "underscored this important lesson".

In a post on the ministry's blog, he said 2013 includes such "sobering realities" as low projected economic growth of 1 to 3 per cent for Singapore, and "painful" economic restructuring.

But the latter process is essential for sustainable growth, he added. Productivity-led growth - not growth fuelled by adding more workers - is what will create higher-value jobs with higher wages.

The Government will continue supporting firms' efforts to innovate, through schemes such as the Inclusive Growth Programme. It will also "look at doing more" in job-matching, said Mr Tan.

Workers can also tap the Workfare Training Support Scheme, which gives incentives for training. The amount given out is being reviewed to ensure that it provides "adequate encouragement".

The eligibility criteria for that and the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme - which tops up the income of low-wage workers - are also under review, with the outcome to be announced early next year, said Mr Tan.

The ministry has much more on its plate for 2013, such as the review of Singapore's main labour law. Mr Tan ended his post with a reminder that the Government is not the only factor.

From workplace safety to work-life balance, "establishing the right environment cannot just depend on laws and regulations", he said. "Culture and attitude matter, and that is where the real fundamental changes occur."

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