Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Restructuring must continue for "better workers, better jobs": Tan Chuan-Jin

By Saifulbahri Ismail, Channel NewsAsia, 28 Apr 2014

Singapore must continue with its restructuring efforts to achieve its vision of making "better workers, better jobs", Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said in his May Day message.

He added that only then can Singapore achieve its vision of making "better workers, better jobs".

Mr Tan also stressed that the tripartite members -- government, employers and unions -- must work closely together as Singapore transforms its economy to create higher-value industries and quality jobs for Singaporeans.

The Singapore economy is expected to grow between two and four per cent this year. The labour market remains tight with close to full employment.

The acting manpower minister said the government is committed to help workers adapt to the new economic environment.

One key area is continuous learning and skills upgrading.

Mr Tan said the Continuing Education and Training system is undergoing a major review to support workers in these areas so they can seize the new job opportunities that restructuring brings.

Companies are also embarking on training which is more relevant now.

Kurt Wee, president of Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (ASME), said: "We are exploring modules that have subject matters like… Do Not Call registry, your personal data protection act, so that the workforce that comes through the training workshops are also more relevant, more industry relevant, towards their employers."

Companies will also get help to transform existing business models, so they can create better opportunities for workers.

Businesses are encouraged to innovate and strive for productivity improvements and in turn, raise the wages of workers.

Mr Tan acknowledged the process is not easy for employers.

He is heartened the unions have been engaging companies to tap different funding schemes, such as the Inclusive Growth Programme and Productivity and Innovation Credit.

Echoing the call, Singapore National Employers Federation President Stephen Lee said employers must invest in the training of workers to enable them to take on larger and higher job roles.

He urged employers to engage and empower workers to motivate them to give their best, and to cultivate a workplace culture that encourages innovation and continuous improvements in work processes.

The Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) has also been active in its mass adoption programme since last year.

Ang Li May, deputy CEO at e2i, said: "Companies in the same sector, they are able to share best practices with each other, they are also more likely to require similar type of equipment, and they will be better able to share with each other what the equipment that potentially work well for them are."

The Institute has been operating at the new Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability since August last year.

It has one-stop centres to help groups of low wage workers and professionals, managers and executives.

Tap women and seniors to beat labour crunch: SNEF
By Toh Yong Chuan, The Straits Times, 29 Apr 2014

AN UNTAPPED pool of 375,000 women and older people could help ease the labour crunch here, Singapore's largest employer group said yesterday.

They could be coaxed back to work if companies adopt flexible work arrangements, the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) said in its May Day message.

SNEF president Stephen Lee cited government schemes to help companies wanting to implement job flexibility. "I urge employers to tap the WorkPro programme to embark on job redesign and flexible work arrangements.

"Since WorkPro was launched, over 800 companies have received assistance through this programme to implement work-life measures and redesign jobs."

The scheme was set up in March last year by the Manpower Ministry and Singapore Workforce Development Agency with a kitty of $170 million to be given to companies over three years.

It offers subsidies for training and office improvements when companies hire older people or women who rejoin the labour force.

Mr Lee acknowledged that different sectors have their own difficulties as the Singapore economy restructures.

"SNEF will reach out to employers in specific sectors and work with their industry unions to proactively tackle their challenges," he pledged.

He pointed out that companies can make better use of their workers and boost productivity on three fronts: By investing in training, motivating staff and creating a culture of innovation at workplaces.

Mr Lee praised the National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC) progressive wage model, which involves wage ladders to boost workers' pay through training.

He hopes to see more employers work with unions to implement these wage ladders.

In a separate May Day message yesterday, Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin also lauded the labour movement for "spearheading the progressive wage model which puts in place clear wage-skill and career progression pathways for workers".

He renewed a pledge to help workers and companies cope with economic restructuring, saying: "The Government is committed to help workers at all levels adapt to the new economic environment. The Government is also fully committed to helping companies transform their existing business models."

Mr Tan noted that the strong three-way partnership of unions, employers and the Government is a "strong competitive advantage" for Singapore.

"It is important that the Government, employers and unions continue to work closely together towards our common objective of making better workers and better jobs, so as to create a better life for Singaporeans."

The NTUC kicks off its May Day celebrations with a dinner at Orchid Country Club today and the annual May Day Rally at the new Devan Nair Institute of Employment and Employability on Thursday.

Stay-at-home mums to ease labour crunch?
By Adrian Lim, My Paper, 29 Apr 2014

AS SINGAPORE grapples with its manpower crunch, some neglected womanpower could provide the solution.

But to attract these thousands of women, as well as some older residents, back to the workforce, employers should redesign jobs and offer flexible work arrangements.

These economically inactive individuals amount to a group of about 375,000 whom companies can recruit, said Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) president Stephen Lee yesterday.

Among them, 208,000 are women between the ages of 25 and 54, while 167,000 are men and women aged between 55 and 64.

Mr Lee urged employers to make use of the Government's WorkPro programme to make their workplaces more age- and family-friendly.

Experts told My Paper that getting the economically inactive back to the workforce is a good idea, but execution is key.

So how does one woo back a woman who may have opted out of the workforce?

Sher-Li Torrey, founder of social enterprise Mums@Work, said companies must have a cultural change, with the acceptance of flexi-work arrangements by both line managers and co-workers.

For example, a back-at-work mum offered flexi-work may stir the envy of colleagues.

While blue-collar jobs tend to have "clear deliverables" and fixed hours, these are less well-defined for white-collar workers, Mrs Torrey added.

"When women opt out of the workforce...They must have been financially prepared...If you want them to come back, the jobs must be meaningful and have the flexibility they need," she said.

The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy's Hui Weng Tat said that in sectors such as food-and-beverage and retail, which face labour shortages, "remuneration may not be attractive enough".

Associate Professor Hui also said that a balance must be struck between encouraging families to have children and boosting the workforce.

Mark Hall, vice-president and country manager of Kelly Services, said the economically inactive group can be recruited for "hard-to-fill positions traditionally associated with the foreign workforce".

But flexibility is important. Older workers, for example, may prefer convenient work locations and shorter hours, while women with children would require childcare arrangements and flexible working hours, Mr Hall said.

Mr Lee said more than 800 firms have benefited from WorkPro, which has a $170 million government kitty to help companies fund job redesigns and implement work-life measures.

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