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National Jobs Council: Do we have sufficient representation?

Netizens have called out for a more well-balanced council with people from different backgrounds to ensure that a more diverse workforce and their subsequent rights are better represented

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At a glance, the National Jobs Council seems a well-rounded rounded high-powered body of government big guns, labour leaders and business luminaries. But is there something missing in the line-up, the human element?

The NJC, which is chaired by Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, held its first meeting on June 3. The new council has been tasked to create more jobs and training opportunities for Singaporeans, in light of the adverse economic impact of COVID-19. It will oversee and implement the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package announced in the Fortitude Budget.

Mr Tharman said the NJC “will use every way possible to create these opportunities, in both the public and private sectors, and pay special attention to our middle-aged and older workers.”

Apart from Mr Tharman, other ministers in the council include:

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Chan Chun Sing, Minister for Trade and Industry

Josephine Teo, Minister for Manpower

Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Finance and Education

Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources

Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education

Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information.

The remaining 10 members are notable business leaders in the country:

Arthur Kiong, 1st Vice- President of the Singapore Hotel Association

Chaly Mah, Chairman of the Singapore Accountancy Commission

Chong Yoke Sing, President of the Singapore Computer Society

Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara, CEO of Temasek International

Douglas Foo, President of the Singapore Manufacturing Federation

Lim Ming Yan, Council Member of the Singapore Business Federation

Mary Liew, President of the National Trades Union Congress

Ng Chee Meng, Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress

Robert Yap, President of the Singapore National Employers Federation

Samuel N. Tsien, Chairman of the Association of Banks Singapore.

Some netizens have applauded the formation of the NJC, agreeing that job creation is the top priority at the moment because of the pandemic.

Photo: FB Screengrab

However, others have raised several issues with regard to the NJC. One netizen, while praising the efforts of the state in providing retraining and re-skilling initiatives, raised his concern over the issue of “experience”. He commented, “got skill but no experience. Not many employers will give newbies a chance.”

Photo: FB Screengrab

Photo: FB Screengrab

Looking at the committee members of the NJC, one Facebook netizen argued that there should be “real, working-class people to provide a more candid, on-the-ground perspective”. Some have countered this with the fact that the entrance of more working-class individuals into the committee would lead to “short-sighted views and complaints that you will get on social media, nothing much constructive”.

Other netizens have called for a more diverse committee.

To ensure a more well-balanced council, where a more diverse workforce and their subsequent rights are represented better, the following people could be considered for future membership:

Prof Tommy Koh

When it comes to the job landscape in Singapore, Prof Koh has earned a reputation for providing well-balanced viewpoints. Recently amidst the COVID-19 crisis, the retired diplomat took to Facebook to slam Singapore’s treatment of its migrant workers. “Singapore is a first-world country with third world citizens” he lamented, proving his willingness to fight for the marginalized. His inclusion into the NJC would put it in a whole new ballpark, with more focus and consideration placed on the plight of the marginalised.

Associate Prof Walter Theseira

Prof Theseira, who is also an NMP, said the COVID-19 pandemic exposed Singapore’s heavy reliance on migrant workers. Worse still, was how poorly these workers were treated. Prof Theseira, Associate Professor at SUSS School of Business, may have valuable input on how to persuade Singaporeans that there is dignity in heavy blue-collar work.

Goh Swee Chen

With COVID-19, the arts scene in Singapore has been adversely affected by performances, exhibitions and other cultural events being cancelled. Some of the individuals that have been hit hardest by the economic repercussions caused by the pandemic are artists, who make up a large portion of those in the “gig economy”. It is thus important that these individuals and their needs are looked after and addressed by the newly created NJC.

Goh Swee Chen, current chairman of the National Arts Council, has experience in helping people in the gig economy.  Before being appointed as the chairman of the National Arts Council, Ms Goh was the chairman of the Shell companies in Singapore. She would have insights on jobs which require artistic and creativity. Fresh soft skills views.

Chua Hong Choon

The fight against COVID-19 is not just a physical or medical one, but a psychological one as well. This challenging climate the world is currently facing has led to increased anxiety, depression and fear. What could exacerbate these fears are issues surrounding employment. As mentioned by Deputy Prime Minister HengSweeKeat, the state needs to prevent a “COVID generation”. Apart from reskilling and retraining workers, there is also a need to build up mental resilience in this period of uncertainty.

Associate Professor Chua Hong Choon, CEO of Singapore’s Institute of Mental Health (IMH) said that programmes that target psychological well-being are vital.

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