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More work needed to reduce Singapore's labour requirements: NTUC Chief

The 3 per cent increase in job vacancies in the last quarter is "unsustainable" says NTUC Secretary-General Lim Swee Say.

SINGAPORE: Last year's 3.9 per cent growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was largely fuelled by an increase in manpower, said National Trades Union Congress Secretary-General Lim Swee Say. The labour force grew by 4.1 per cent last year. Pointing to the 3 per cent increase in job vacancies in the last quarter, he said this rate of growth is unsustainable.

"Yes, I think we see high job vacancies, but at the same time, we have to ask ourselves: Instead of looking for more ways to bring in more manpower into our workforce, how can (we) make better use of every person that is already in our workforce?"

One way, Mr Lim said, is for employers to make workplaces more age- and family-friendly. This would enable existing staff to be more productive while reducing the need for more workers.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the launch of Appreciating U -- a movement that recognises the contributions of everyday workers. For a start, the movement will be focusing on the local cleaning work force.

The launch event saw 115 cleaners invited to lunch and certificates were given out to 26 outstanding performers. As of this month, 200 organisations, including employers in both the private and public sectors, have pledged to show their appreciation for their cleaners in ways ranging from lunch treats to movie screenings. More employers are expected to come on board in the coming months.

Mr Lim said that beyond showing appreciation, there must be more tangible benefits, such as making jobs easier, safer and smarter. This can be achieved with upgrading and the appropriate use of technology.

Wages must also go up, he added, and he explained how the Progressive Wage Model, which kicks in later this year, plays a part.

"Our appeal to all the cleaning contractors is: Try to be better employers in taking better care of your workers. For all the companies that outsource their cleaning services, our appeal to them is to be better customers. Instead of going for cheap-sourcing, why not go for best-sourcing?"

As part of the Progressive Wage Model, cleaning companies are obligated to send their cleaners for training in order to be licensed.

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