Inclusive Growth Programme to benefit over 53,000 workers: Lim Swee Say
- POSTED: 04 Oct 2013 18:11
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Inclusive Growth Programme to benefit more than 53,000 low-wage workers through productivity and wage increases.
SINGAPORE: Singapore companies have committed to some 820 productivity improvements projects since a S$100 million programme was launched by the labour movement in 2010.
When these projects are completed, more than 53,000 low-wage workers will benefit from productivity and wage increases.
The Inclusive Growth Programme comes under the NTUC's Employment and Employability Institute's (e2i) key initiative for inclusive and sustainable growth.
It supports automation and process redesign for companies, where gains are shared with low wage workers.
About S$42 million has already been committed to these projects, and two-thirds of the companies involved are SMEs.
Chef Benny Se Teo, director of the Eighteen Chefs restaurant chain, tapped the Inclusive Growth Programme to invest in food technology, which has yielded results.
He said: "Because the market changes, it is now more competitive, especially F&B which is a labour intensive industry where we need a lot of workers. So by adopting technology... we can get better quality, and the job will be faster and easier."
Mr Teo has also been able to raise his workers' pay by between 8 and 20 per cent after they were trained in the new technology.
Eighteen Chefs was highlighted as one example of a company that has upgraded its capabilities in the face of rising business costs and shortage of workers.
NTUC Secretary-General Lim Swee Say said: "From an economic and social angle, we have no choice but to enter into a new phase of development whereby we slow down the growth of manpower, not to reduce the number, but slow down the growth, and yet at the same time, focus on productivity.
"So in the future as we move ahead, every company has to look at this new reality."
Mr Lim pointed out that in the past five to seven years, Singapore's workforce has been growing fast -- at about three to four per cent a year -- but at the same time productivity has been slowing down because we produce more by having more workers.
"And as a result, productivity gain is only one per cent. So our economy will eventually run out of competitiveness because if you don't increase productivity while other people do, eventually, you become too expensive," he noted.
Facing this new reality requires a mindset change, he said.
"We're happy to see a growing number of SMEs -- they're turning the pressure on them, turning them into actions going forward. So more of them are thinking about how to come up with new products and services," he added.
Mr Lim was speaking at the first Inclusive Growth Symposium organised by NTUC's e2i -- aimed at helping more SMEs create better jobs and better workers.
More will be done to convince companies that are still resistant to change, such as working with the various sectors to see which schemes can be bundled together to help them.
Yeo Guat Kwang, director and SME lead at NTUC, said: "Some of the micro-SMEs, they are telling us sometimes it's not so much whether they want to adopt or they don't want to subscribe to new technology. It's that they can't benefit without an economy of scale.
"So (for this group of SMEs), we are now exploring whether we could arrange for them a group-sourcing platform, so they can actually tap on the scheme together, as a cluster, or as a group of small companies."
He added that feedback has been received from the companies that the schemes available -- while attractive and comprehensive -- are also numerous.
"Then the question is that they are still not able to put all these schemes together so they can actually benefit most. So the question here then is for us to help out the companies, to look at some of those cases that have already been able to succeed," he said.
At Friday's symposium, companies, government agencies, and solution partners learnt how SMEs across various sectors improved their productivity.
This was done through panel discussions, clinics on how to tap various funding programmes, as well as an exhibition. The symposium is one way for the labour movement to encourage SMEs to increase productivity so that workers' wages can increase.