Unemployment has risen due to the pandemic although it is lower than seen in most advanced economies. But we should still be concerned, said Minister of State for Manpower Gan Siow Huang. This is because unlike many countries, Singapore has no natural resources to give us the buffer.
Our people are our only asset, and every Singaporean counts said, Ms Gan.
Strengthening the Singaporean core
Some say that we can strengthen the Singaporean core by increasing the proportion of Singaporeans in the labour force and reducing our reliance on foreign workers.
Reducing reliance on foreign workers must be done in a sustainable way.
Reducing our reliance on foreign workers in a sustainable way
To do this, we would need to increase our work productivity to bring down our overall demand for labour, Ms Gan said in her maiden speech in Parliament on 31 August.
“We’ve made some progress in raising productivity in the last 10 years, but it takes much effort to keep up the momentum,” she added.
Staying competitive with an ageing workforce
One thing to bear in mind is that while we have a ‘highly educated and dynamic workforce’, our local workforce is ageing, Ms Gan pointed out.
- Last year, the median age of residents in our workforce was 44 years old. It will gradually creep upwards.
- At the same time, the proportion of Singapore citizens age 20 – 64 will decline. This is the group that forms the bulk of our labour force.
In 2019, 63.1% of our citizen population was between 20 and 64 years.
10 years from now, it is projected to drop to 56.1%.
Against this backdrop of an ageing population, for Singapore to stay competitive against a younger global talent pool, “we would have to keep upgrading ourselves or risk being squeezed out of the global talent competition for good jobs”, Ms Gan said.
The Singaporean Core and Identity
Our Singaporean core may be limited by the size of our citizen population. But we can be mighty if we differentiate ourselves from others by being identified with the values of openness, multiculturalism and self-determination, Ms Gan said.
Concluding, Ms Gan said, “As a society, we will chart our own destiny, overcome adversity and find opportunities in this crisis. We must stand together and take care of one another so that no one is left behind in the storm. When we have fought together as a people in the battle against COVID-19, the Singapore identity will become even stronger than before.”
“The Government will do our best to ensure fair opportunities for Singaporeans to get jobs and to support Singaporeans in acquiring new skills. We will spare no effort to strengthen the Singaporean core and walk the journey with every Singaporean. Because our people are our only asset, and every Singaporean counts,” said Ms Gan.