Senior Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has said that Singapore residents needs to be realistic and consider other opportunities like temporary jobs and internships in cases where they cannot get a job. He added that Singapore will see a loss of jobs and even fewer new job openings in the next year, as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.
Mr Tharman is the chair of the new National Jobs Council that was launched last month, to create jobs and help workers build deep skills to stay employable in the challenging economy. Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who tapped on Mr Tharman – his predecessor – to chair the council said that he did so because the Senior Minister has “both detailed knowledge and deep expertise in this issue”.
In a Facebook post published on Wednesday (3 June) evening, Mr Tharman set out some of the challenges that await Singapore during the current economic downturn. Sharing that Singapore will be impacted by the bleak global economic outlook, he said that not only will jobs be lost but there will be “far fewer” new job vacancies than the number of jobs that will be lost in the next six to 12 months.
The veteran politician wrote: “We face a major and urgent challenge in the next 6-12 months. Many more people will be at risk of losing their jobs because of COVID-19, even as we gradually lift our circuit-breaker.
“The global economy faces a bleak outlook, and we will be hit too. Some industries will be hiring people, and we will do all we can to grow them. But we have to be realistic. The sheer uncertainty facing the world – no one can tell how long COVID-19 will last – will mean that we will have far fewer new job openings than jobs being lost – over the next year, and beyond that if we are unlucky.”
Calling on Singaporeans to work together as a national team to tackle this challenge, Mr Tharman said that the Government aims to “defend jobs wherever we can, and help people bounce back into work when they lose their jobs.”
He added that workers who cannot get a job should be realistic and consider other work opportunities like temporary jobs and internships, that eventually could lead to longer-term career prospects:
“We have to grow jobs, but where people cannot get a job we have to create other opportunities to be at work – temporary jobs, short and long internships, and other forms of training at workplaces. They all give people skills, exposure and experience, that they carry with them into longer-term career opportunities eventually.
“So we need to face the near future with that combination of realism about the global economy and local hiring plans, and bold ambition to create large numbers of new opportunities to be at work and learn at work.”
The Government aims to create 100,000 such opportunities in the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package that was announced by Mr Heng in his latest COVID-19 support package. Mr Tharman assured that while the task ahead is challenging, the Government will leave no stone unturned in its quest to fulfill its promise:
“Achieving this will be challenging, but we can succeed with tight coordination among our tripartite partners, and by going beyond established ways. We will use every way possible to create these opportunities, in both the public and private sectors.”
Calling on all workers and employers to adjust to the new realities that Singapore and the world beyond face, Mr Tharman revealed that special attention will be paid to middle-aged and mature Singaporean workers. Urging employers against rejecting mature workers by saying they are ‘too old to hire,’ ‘over-qualified’ or ‘not adaptable enough’, Mr Tharman called on employers to “be part of our national team in overcoming the jobs challenge.”
Mr Tharman pointed out that the Government is providing very strong support for employers and said that “those who prefer to stay on the sidelines” will face “tough questions” by the Manpower Ministry about how they are abiding by the Fair Consideration Framework.
Asserting that Singapore must avoid the rising unemployment rate that is seen in other nations and should not wait for the labour market to recover and work out these issues on its own, Mr Tharman wrote:
“We must absolutely avoid what we have seen in many other places, where unemployment keeps rising – first to 10%, then higher, and governments and people begin treating that as normal after a while. We also cannot wait for the employment market to recover and to solve these problems on its own.
“The longer that those in mid-career are left out of work, the more their skills fade, and the less likely it is that they get a good job again. And when young people graduate from their education and find themselves waiting for years to get a serious job – like in many European countries – their hopes and ambitions fall apart.”
The Senior Minister added: “No amount of unemployment benefits can compensate for not having a job, and for the social stagnation and loss of optimism about the future that comes when a large segment of the population feels redundant and out of sorts. We must never get there.”
Read his post in full here:
We face a major and urgent challenge in the next 6-12 months. Many more people will be at risk of losing their jobs…
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