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SM Tharman: Amid Covid-19 fallout, “our first priority today is to save jobs”

He points out that this is not just an economic issue but a social priority




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Singapore — On Wednesday (June 17), Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies tackled the challenges Singaporeans are facing together today, in a speech on the theme, A Stronger And More Cohesive Society.

His speech is the fifth in a series of six National Broadcasts by Government leaders concerning how the country will navigate the rough waters as it emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Tharman talked about the impact of Covid-19 as not only an economic recession, saying soberly that “it has the makings of a profound social crisis”. Social divisiveness has already taken its toll in other countries that are experiencing unrest, and the Senior Minister cautioned that Singaporeans should not think it cannot happen on our shores.

Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam: A stronger and more cohesive society

In his National Broadcast on 17 June 2020, Senior Minister spoke about how we must work together to strengthen our social compact.

Posted by Gov.sg on Wednesday, June 17, 2020


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Mr Tharman concentrated on an issue close to the hearts of many Singaporeans — , especially for middle-aged and mature Singaporeans, as well as those who are in the middle of their careers.

He reiterated the words of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong from the first broadcast, “No one will be left to walk his journey alone”.

“Our first priority today is to save jobs, and to help Singaporeans who do lose their jobs to bounce back into work. This is not just an economic issue but a social priority.

“We will do all we can to prevent people from being out of work for long so they can stand on their own feet and retain their sense of dignity.”

He reiterated that this is important not just for the sake of the economy but that it is vital for social cohesion.

“Good jobs are also at the heart of our whole approach to building a cohesive society and tempering inequalities.”

The reality is that due to the widespread effects of the pandemic, there are most likely fewer job openings than job losses.

However, the Government is stepping up, he said, because if the employment landscape is left to market forces, unemployment numbers will see a sharp increase.

“We are, therefore, working with companies, sector by sector, to take on Singaporeans through temporary assignments, attachments and traineeships during this down period, so they get real work opportunities and get paid, and pick up skills while waiting for permanent jobs to open up.

“The Government is heavily subsidising these opportunities. It gives people far greater benefit when Government provides support this way. No amount of unemployment allowances can compensate for the demoralisation of being out of work for long.”

Additionally, the Government will make a “concerted effort”  to aid middle-aged and mature Singaporeans in the labor force. As an incentive, employers get additional support when they employ older and middle-aged workers.

He called for a “national effort” to accomplish this.

“This is and must be a national effort. And it needs new thinking among employers, to give middle-aged and mature Singaporean workers a fair chance to prove themselves. Employers need to reorient their management philosophies, and their HR and talent management practices.

“No Singaporean who is willing to learn should be ‘too old’ to hire. No one who is willing to adapt should be viewed as ‘overqualified’. We will work closely with the business associations to bring all employers into this national effort.”

The sixth and final National Broadcast will be on Saturday (June 20). Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat will speak on the theme, Emerging Stronger Together. — TISG

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