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‘Current economic downturn will be more severe than the Global Financial Crisis of 2008’ – Ong Ye Kung

The education minister said that Singapore's tripartite spirit is an advantage in times of financial crisis and would be used to prevent job losses as well as help the unemployed find jobs

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Education Minister Ong Ye Kung has cautioned that the current economic downturn will be more severe than the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008, in a Facebook post published on Tuesday (26 May).

The ruling party politician spoke about how Singapore’s tripartite spirit is an advantage in times of financial crisis. The Government regularly positions tripartism, which refers to the collaboration among unions, employers and the Government, as a key competitive advantage for Singapore.

Recalling how tripartism worked to help pull Singapore out of the 2008 recession, Mr Ong wrote: “In every economic downturn, we leverage our tripartite spirit to prevent job losses, and help the unemployed find jobs. In other words, unions, employers and Government collaborate and work closely together.

“That was how we dealt with the last recession – the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 – during which I was serving in NTUC overseeing training and job placements. Employers did not retrench at the first sign of trouble. They cut cost, in order to save jobs. Retrenchments were a last resort.

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“The Government put in a lot of resources to help the unemployed find jobs, and help them upgrade their skills. It created more public sector jobs and helped companies hire ahead of demand. Unions encouraged workers to be open to jobs from other sectors, mobilised them to undergo training, and urged employers to hire workers with no prior experience in those sectors but who were willing to learn.”

Cautioning that the current economic downturn will be worse than the recession in 2008, Mr Ong asked Singapore to be prepared. Sharing that the ongoing tripartite relationship  helps Singapore prepare for the difficulties ahead, he wrote: “This recession will be more severe than the 2008 GFC. We knew we had to be prepared for another difficult episode.

“That is why over the years, we have continued to nurture the tripartite working relationship. We expanded our training capacity for workers through SkillsFuture. We brought on board our polytechnics and universities to train adult workers. We expanded our network of employer partners. We developed a system to spot where the job vacancies are.”

He added: “Our immediate task is to mobilise this entire system to support workers in this time of need. This will be a top priority.”

In every economic downturn, we leverage our tripartite spirit to prevent job losses, and help the unemployed find jobs….

Posted by Ong Ye Kung on Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong also cautioned Singapore about the difficult path ahead as Singapore faces an unprecedented health crisis and the worst financial recession in its history as an independent nation. In a Facebook post on Tuesday (May 26), PM Lee asserted that Singapore must have “the same conviction” that its founding fathers did as it forges ahead.

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