Singapore — While the trade-reliant nature of Singapore’s economy has made economic cooperation and free trade its foremost priority on the whole, one analyst says that protecting jobs for Singaporean professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) is a top domestic priority.
Writing on Friday in The Diplomat, Mr Siow Yue Chia, a Senior Research Fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, says that the inflow of overseas skilled workers has been seen to take PMET jobs away from Singaporeans.
Given changes in technology as well as sluggish economic growth, he expects the issue of job protection for local PMETs to become more politicised.
So far, the Government has, firstly, encouraged local workers to train and re-train in order to attain the skills needed in current jobs. Secondly, it has announced that, due to an increase in foreign investments, new jobs are being created to address retrenchments. Third, it is making sure of fair recruitment practices as well as enforcing the Employment Pass requirements for skilled workers and professionals from other countries.
Mr Siow adds that another one of Singapore’s domestic priorities is to ensure its pro-business environment. “Singapore ranks high on the ‘ease of doing business’ index but the economy has now transitioned from being cost-based to innovation-based, and the Government needs to constantly refresh its incentive and regulatory environment to seize new opportunities.”
He cited the example of one effect of the ongoing US-China trade tensions. With the resulting changes in regional and global supply chains, Singapore has been eyeing certain high-value and innovative parts of those supply chains, since its advantage has been due to its “business trust, standards and quality assurance, a skilled workforce, intellectual property protection, availability of research, and development grants and partnerships with government agencies and academia”.
Another domestic priority that Mr Siow lists is to hasten skills development and structural transformation. In this age of the digital economy, the country’s labour force needs to be flexible in adjusting to different careers as certain ones become obsolete due to changes in technology.
The final priority he mentions is to keep public housing prices down, an issue that caused the ruling party to suffer losses in the General Election in 2011.
Last July, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said that, in spite of economic sluggishness, there were good jobs available even for PMETs.
At the announcement of a new initiative to re-skill white-collar air transport workers at the Sats Inflight Catering Centre 2, Ms Teo said there were 60,000 job openings available, with around half of these vacancies open for PMET positions.
She said: “If you look at our economy today, even though there are some sectors with weaknesses, the overall vacancies rate is quite healthy. Quite a lot of these jobs are good-quality jobs. How to equip our people to capture those job opportunities — that must be our focus.” -/TISG