Ahead of Budget 2017, NTUC calls for support to help workers transition into new economy

Ahead of Budget 2017, NTUC calls for support to help workers transition into new economy

The labour movement outlines four key areas of focus, including a better system to help the unemployed find jobs and making training courses more accessible.

SINGAPORE: The labour movement on Tuesday (Jan 17) called on the Government to provide more support to help workers transition into the new economy.

It said it is particularly concerned about people's ability to maintain their competitiveness, given the fast-changing labour market brought about by rapid technological disruption, new requirement for skills as well as an ageing and shrinking workforce.

In its recommendations for Budget 2017, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) outlined four key areas to focus on, among them to improve the system to help the unemployed find jobs.

NTUC suggested that the Government share Jobs Bank information with its Future Jobs, Skills and Training (FJST) capability and Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), so that both parties can better match workers to jobs. The labour movement said this would also help it identify the new skills which are required and put in place relevant training programmes.

MAKE TRAINING COURSES MORE ACCESSIBLE

To ensure workers remain employable, the labour movement called on the Government to "plug existing structural gaps" in the current systems of training, citing a recent survey it conducted which showed that almost half of the respondents did not attend training or upskilling courses in the past year.

The NTUC proposed that employees be given more training leave and training allowances, as well as credit top-ups to the SkillsFuture scheme. Courses should also be made modular and "bite-sized", it said.

To help women who want to re-enter the workforce, the labour movement suggested a "returnship programme" - similar to an internship - where these women enter a job trial for several months, before they are formally employed.

It also proposed a special employment credit for employers who hire these women.

IMPROVING PRODUCTIVITY, FAIR TERMS FOR WORKERS

More support for businesses is required as they adopt measures that are less labour-intensive, said the labour movement. "The Government can take the lead in industry transformation projects ... tripartite partners will need to help all companies up their productivity game, and ensure that such gains are shared with their workers," it said.

It added that productivity schemes can be enhanced with sector-level projects and resource-pooling among companies, with special emphasis on sectors such as F&B, retail and construction.

With changing employment models, the labour movement is also proposing a relook of laws to better protect the interests of workers on non-traditional work arrangements, such as contract workers and freelancers. It said outsourced workers, too, must be protected and suggested enhancing the law governing procurement practices for outsourced services.

"Though we may face short-term and more immediate challenges, all parties - from the Government, businesses, working people to society at large - will need to endeavour to prepare for what lies ahead," said NTUC.

Budget 2017 will be delivered on Feb 20.

Source: CNA/gs

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