Sunday 19 January 2020

Singapore attracted $15.2 billion in investments in 2019; set to create 32,000 jobs

Big jump in investments in 2019 set to create 32,000 jobs in Singapore
Singaporeans to get most new jobs, says Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing; half of the roles are linked to digital economy
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 17 Jan 2020

Despite a challenging year weighed down by global economic uncertainties, Singapore beat expectations for investment commitments last year.

It secured $15.2 billion in investments last year, which are expected to create more than 32,000 jobs over the coming years, the Economic Development Board (EDB) announced at its year in review yesterday. The vast majority of these jobs will go to Singaporeans, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

This would be in line with the trend seen between 2015 and 2018. Some 60,000 jobs were created during that period, of which 50,000 were taken up by Singaporeans, said Mr Chan.

Large manufacturing investments from semiconductor as well as energy and chemical companies were key to the surge in investments last year.

Technology firm Micron expanded its presence here with a multibillion-dollar investment, while gas giant Linde pumped in $1.9 billion to quadruple its footprint in the Republic by 2023.

EDB chairman Beh Swan Gin said that the strong investment commitment numbers reflect companies' confidence in Singapore's strong fundamentals and its strategic position in a fast-growing Asia.

The $15.2 billion worth of investment commitments beat EDB's forecast of $8 billion to $10 billion for the year, and exceeded 2018's $10.9 billion figure. The electronics industry accounted for some 28.4 per cent of investments.

When fully implemented, the projects will create 32,814 jobs, almost double the forecast of 16,000 to 18,000 positions.

Close to half of these jobs will be in the digital economy, and around 60 per cent to 70 per cent will be jobs for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), noted Dr Beh.

Mr Chan highlighted that while Singapore drew strong commitments last year, it has no room to be complacent as there is global competition for talent in sectors such as information and communications, robotics and deep technology.

The projects committed to last year are expected to contribute $29.4 billion in value-added per annum - the direct contribution to Singapore's gross domestic product.

Total business expenditure, which refers to companies' incremental annual operating expenditure, such as on wages and rental, was $9 billion last year. This exceeded the forecast $5 billion to $7 billion.

EDB managing director Chng Kai Fong highlighted three reasons for the strong investment commitments last year: Singapore's position at the heart of a growing Asia which provides companies with access to the booming region, trust in the Republic and the stability it offers, and the sophisticated capabilities of its economy.

He said EDB will continue to strengthen Singapore's position as a platform for companies to tap opportunities in the region, reinforce its role as a hub for companies to develop digital solutions, and support companies in innovation.

Mr Sanjiv Lamba, Linde Asia-Pacific chief executive, said that the company's $1.9 billion commitment to Singapore last year was its largest worldwide.

"For over 20 years, Linde has continuously strengthened our presence and operations in Singapore through multiple investments, made possible by its excellent infrastructure, abundant highly skilled workforce, and stable and friendly business environment," he said.

Meanwhile, EDB is moving away from yearly forecasts to long-to medium-term ones to reflect how companies plan their investment positions.

From this multi-year perspective, EDB still expects to draw $8 billion to $10 billion in investment commitments and create around 16,000 to 18,000 expected jobs yearly.

Investment commitments for 2020 should come in above the forecast based on the pipeline of projects, said Mr Chng.

Of 60,000 new jobs created from 2015 to 2018, about 80% went to Singaporeans: Chan Chun Sing
Majority of new jobs created go to Singaporeans
Chan Chun Sing gives breakdown of local employment figures and explains PR performance in the workforce
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 17 Jan 2020

About 83 per cent of the 60,000 new jobs created for the local workforce between 2015 and 2018 went to Singaporeans, and the rest to permanent residents.

Providing a breakdown yesterday, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said about 50,000 of the jobs created during that period went to Singapore citizens, and more than 9,000 to permanent residents.

This means there were five new jobs that went to Singaporeans for every one that went to a PR.

The proportion of PRs in new jobs is slightly higher than that of PRs in the local workforce, which is about six Singaporeans to one PR.

Mr Chan said the "slightly stronger" employment growth for PRs should be expected as they have been "pre-selected".

A spotlight was cast on the breakdown of Singaporeans, PRs and foreigners in the workforce after Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh asked for figures in Parliament earlier this month. Replying, Mr Chan said the Government does not have "anything to hide". But he questioned Mr Singh's intentions.

In an interview yesterday, Mr Chan said: "I know it is easy to politicise (the breakdown of local employment figures) and say, why is the PR performance slightly stronger than the Singapore citizen performance."

But there are very simple reasons for this, he said, noting that the Singaporean workforce is made up of a wider group of workers aged from 20 to more than 60 years old.

In comparison, the PRs who come in are those with "strong job opportunities".

"Because we pre-select the PRs, it would not be surprising that in some sectors, the PR performance is just slightly better than the Singaporeans," he added.

He said Singaporeans would be worried if the reverse were true, adding that the unemployment rate of Singaporeans and PRs is similar.

Citing "opportunists" who claim that the Government does not care about Singaporeans, and who point to the lower unemployment rate of foreigners compared with Singaporeans and PRs, he said: "The truth of the matter is, if a foreigner is unemployed, why would we want (him) to be in Singapore? So, the unemployment rate for foreigners in Singapore must be zero."

Reiterating numbers cited by Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad in Parliament earlier this month, Mr Chan noted that the 23 key sectors with industry transformation blueprints cover about 80 per cent of Singapore's workforce.

Of the new jobs created in these sectors, the same five-to-one ratio stands, although it varies from sector to sector.

On the number of jobs held by Singaporeans and PRs versus foreigners, he said the proportion is three resident workers to around one foreign worker. This excludes jobs such as construction workers, which Singaporeans typically do not take up. Including such jobs, the ratio is two resident workers to one foreign worker.

He also said there would be more foreigners in the fastest-growing sectors like information and communications technology (ICT), which experience a worldwide shortage of people with the right skills.

Reiterating a point he made in Parliament earlier this month, he said this is not a static picture and the important question is whether Singaporeans are taking over such jobs over time.

"The answer is yes," he said, pointing to the graduate employment survey released on Tuesday which showed that polytechnic graduates last year had better job prospects than their seniors, and commanded slightly higher salaries.

"You will see that many of our graduates go into these jobs. This means that progressively, our people are taking over these higher-paying and better jobs, even though today, the local (to foreigner) ratio may be lower than three to one."

Mr Chan also gave the assurance yesterday that the majority of the 32,814 jobs coming on-stream in the next three to five years will go to Singaporeans.

The new jobs created are due to an unexpectedly large amount - $15.2 billion - in investment commitments in Singapore last year, which exceeded initial estimates of $8 billion to $10 billion.

60% to 70% of jobs created by foreign investment for PMETs: EDB
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 17 Jan 2020

Around 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the jobs created by the foreign investment attracted here last year will be for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), said Economic Development Board (EDB) chairman Beh Swan Gin.

In EDB's year-in-review briefing yesterday, he said that the other roles will be well-paying "rank and file" positions.

EDB expects 32,814 jobs will stem from the $15.2 billion worth of investment commitments made last year - an amount that easily exceeds official forecasts.

Around half of these positions will be in the digital economy, utilising technologies such as data analytics and artificial intelligence.

But Dr Beh said that not all of these digital jobs will require advanced skills; some could be filled by people with traditional backgrounds who are comfortable in the digital domain.

Around 29 per cent of the total expected jobs will be in manufacturing and production roles.

EDB managing director Chng Kai Fong said at the same briefing: "The kind of job landscape we are creating in Singapore is... becoming more diverse and this brings... more opportunities for Singaporeans and creates resilience in our economy."

He noted how the Professional Conversion Programme, which helps professionals learn new skills to move into new careers, has been effective, especially in the manufacturing industry, as it gives workers with varied levels of education "practical, technical skills" that can be used in the sector.

Former engineer Jimmy Hong, 51, undertook the one-year programme for the biologics manufacturing industry after his former employer closed its operations in Singapore.

He is now responsible for developing and updating standard operating procedures and other operations as a biotechnologist at Novartis.

Sizeable spending commitments from large manufacturers were key to Singapore's strong investment figures last year, with chipmaker Micron among those which are expanding their presence here.

Ms Khairunnisa Zulkifli, 27, a manufacturing senior engineer at Micron, has benefited from the firm's commitment to Singapore.

She picked up macro-programming skills on her own after a colleague introduced her to the basics about 18 months after she joined the company in 2015.

Her skills have since enabled her to extract and consolidate large data sets more efficiently - a task that used to take more than an hour now takes less than 20 seconds, she said. It has also been useful in reducing human error in some areas, Ms Khairunnisa added.

Ms Tan Lee Sar, senior director of human resources, talent and organisation development at manufacturer Applied Materials South East Asia, said digitalisation initiatives have come in the form of real-time data on the shop floor.

These include predicting when defects may occur in the manufacturing process and taking steps to pre-empt them. "It increases our ability to produce faster and more efficiently," Ms Tan said.

Mr Chng said that while it would be very easy for EDB to bring in the "highest value-added jobs that pay the best" - likely meaning a high concentration of finance and programming posts - its focus is on creating positions at different levels to cater to the younger generation and older workers.

"We have to be conscious that not everyone can get (these jobs), and not everyone is a programmer," he noted.

"What we need is a diverse field of jobs spanning multiple, different industries... and that creates some resilience (in our economy) as industries ebb and flow."

Measures in Budget 2020 to help firms, Singaporeans stay relevant: Chan Chun Sing
By Grace Ho, The Straits Times, 17 Jan 2020

While Singapore saw a surge in investments last year, it remains exposed to external downside risks and has to do more to shore up domestic productivity, said Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing.

For companies and Singaporeans concerned about being left behind, the Government will announce measures in the next Budget to help them upskill, reskill and seize new opportunities, he added.

He was speaking yesterday at an interview on his ministry's year in review and outlook for 2020.

Figures released by the Economic Development Board yesterday showed that Singapore exceeded its forecast for investment commitments last year by pulling in $15.2 billion, 39 per cent more than in 2018.

But Mr Chan cautioned against complacency, noting that the investment climate remains challenging and competitive.

"While the numbers are very good from last year, it doesn't mean we have won every investment that we desired," he said.

"Year on year, there will be fluctuations, with some (years) higher than others. We should take a multi-year perspective... Different investments have different horizons, and they will be progressively implemented across the economy, creating the new jobs."

Referring to the phase one trade deal signed on Wednesday between the United States and China, he said there remain key differences between the two countries - from how they use technology to the way they organise their economies, production, and research and development.

Ongoing US-China tensions and technological disruption have also led to shifting supply chains, he said, adding that whether Singapore can play an important role in these depends on how it positions itself.

Another potential disruptor he highlighted is the base erosion and profit shifting initiative, or BEPS 2.0. The initiative, by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, aims to clamp down on multinational enterprises exploiting gaps and mismatches between different countries' tax systems.

Its two pillars - one giving jurisdictions new taxing rights, and the other ensuring a minimum tax on foreign profits - if widely adopted, will significantly impact how countries compete for investments and how corporate profits are allocated and taxed, Mr Chan said.

There are also domestic challenges to contend with in Singapore, from improving the competitiveness of firms to upgrading the skills of older workers, he added.

Highlighting the many new opportunities in sectors such as agri-tech, food science, precision and additive manufacturing and robotics, he said it is not enough for Singapore to be part of the global value chain - it has to entrench itself so that it is not easily displaced.

To this end, the Government will announce schemes during Budget 2020 to help companies scale up and digitalise, and customise programmes for them to grow sustainably, he said.

"In the past, enterprise transformation was about giving grants and subsidies. We must redesign processes and operating models, and spare no effort in enterprise transformation, company by company," he said.

For workers in their 40s and 50s, he also gave the assurance that there will be measures to support their lifelong learning so they can stay employable for life.

"It is not easy for mid-career professionals to make the switch, as they have responsibilities," he noted. "We have to structure the training in a way that is easier for them.

"Our promise to everyone is this - never mind if you are unable, so long as you are willing."

EDB Year 2019 In Review

Singaporeans' concerns about foreign talent: Chan Chun Sing addresses fears about foreigners taking jobs from locals

Stiffer penalties for discriminatory hiring practices in updated Fair Consideration Framework

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