Job security and working from home: MPs share their thoughts on how workers, families and companies can move forward after COVID-19

Job security and working from home: MPs share their thoughts on how workers, families and companies can move forward after COVID-19

he ting ru oct 15
Workers' Party MP He Tingru speaking in Parliament on Oct 15. 

SINGAPORE: In the second day of debates on Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s roadmap for Singapore’s post-COVID-19 economy, 19 Members of Parliament took to the floor to raise concerns on job security and how Singapore could change after the pandemic. 

Here is what some members of the House said about the changes Singapore should be prepared for and how to adapt to them: 

WORKING FROM HOME AND THE BURDEN OF CARE ON WOMEN

“It is often said that Singapore's only natural resource is our people, yet we aren’t even employing half of our people - our women - efficiently. Why is our female labour force participation rate so low? According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the culprit is caregiving and childcare responsibilities.”

- Nee Soon GRC MP Louis Ng, who noted that Singapore’s female labour force participation rate was significantly lower than other countries in Southeast Asia, calling for flexible work hours to account for caregiving responsibilities

“Just last weekend while visiting friends for lunch, our two-year-old announced that he needed to go to the toilet. My husband stood up to take him, and was immediately met with amazement and praise for being such a hands-on father. Would the same have occurred if a mother had brought her child to the toilet? Should we also not think hard about what it says about the roles of mothers and fathers that we’re expected to sing high praises for fathers who change nappies or bring their children out to give their wives a break?”

- Sengkang GRC MP He Tingru, who spoke on supporting families with parental leave policies and highlighted how flexible work arrangements could work better for caregivers at home

PRIORITISING JOBS AND SKILLS

“I believe that skills prioritisation must begin early, even before they start their job. And here I am referring to the institutes of higher learning. Relevant courses must be identified and prioritised at the pre-employment training stage, whereas courses that are more specialised should be pushed towards the continuing education training stage. In that way, all our graduates are assured of a solid yet flexible foundation that can be applied in other disciplines.” 

- Jalan Besar GRC MP Wan Rizal Wan Zakariah, who talked about his experience as an educator and the importance of matching skills to jobs where they can be applied 

“We need these regional and international collaborations to stay ahead of the competition, to increase our value and usefulness to the world, thereby ensuring our survival and prosperity. The better approach is not to stay away and shield us from competition in this rapidly technologically advancing world. We should rather face the competitions and equip Singaporeans with skills and tools to make us stay ahead of competition.” 

- Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Gan Thiam Poh, who shared concerns of over-reliance on foreign labour and the implications for the local workforce and local businesses

zaqy mohamad oct 15
Senior Minister of State in the Ministry for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad speaking in Parliament on Oct 15. 

JOB MATCHING

“When so many businesses are restructuring, mismatches in jobs and skills must be expected.  We recognise the tremendous adjustments needed by both employees and employers to give each other a chance, even if they don’t look like perfect fits. Many job seekers have shown such courage and resilience.” 

- Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad, who addressed how Government schemes to help workers reskill and find employment amid the pandemic, including the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, have taken effect

“If we cut through the statistics and think about the thousands of Singaporean job seekers as individuals, with lives to build and families to feed, grappling with the uncertainty of a search that has been going on for months, trying to stay strong amidst the deflating radio silence after their application that was sent out weeks ago or after the interview last week that seemed to have gone quite well. Then it becomes abundantly clear to us that we not only need to walk alongside each Singaporean each step of the way but also deliver outcomes for these job seekers. In other words, I urge the Government to double down on job matching and get many more openings filled much more quickly.” 

- Jurong GRC MP Xie Yao Quan, who shared about one resident whose job offer from before the COVID-19 pandemic was withdrawn, and who has sent out more than 80 job applications in the seven months since

THREAT OF DISRUPTION

“But it is possible that COVID-19 has in fact delayed the advance of these disruptive industries by delaying timelines for R&D and new business investment. As COVID-19 recedes, the threat and opportunity from these disruptive trends may return to the old trajectory, which means that many jobs in Singapore will be jeopardised, not from COVID-19, but from long-term industry disruption.” 

- Aljunied GRC MP Leon Perera, who shared concerns on preparing the local workforce for industry disruption and enhance their employability

“Many public-private venture funds such as Startup SG tend to privilege technologically oriented firms. While such investments are appealing in that they can lead to the next Carousell or Grab, we cannot leave the vast majority of old economy firms behind. Moreover raising productivity levels in such firms isn’t limited to deploying the latest technology or adapting AI solutions. They are often derived from much more modest sources such as focusing on improving core management practices.” 

- Sengkang GRC MP Jamus Lim, who spoke on more support for SMEs beyond relieving financial constraints 

ADDITIONAL SUPPORT FOR VULNERABLE SINGAPOREANS

“This year to date, I don't have a percentage but 1,534 ex-offenders have been employed thanks to Yellow Ribbon SG... A lot of hard work has been put into this so as to achieve these figures. We can do much more. Remember these are able-bodied Singaporeans. Even though we assume that we have another twenty per cent in self-employed jobs, I would suggest that our government and whole of society can do much more to bring down the roughly 30 per cent unemployment amongst our ex-offenders...It is a good signal from our society to ex-offenders that we remain invested in their rehabilitation and reintegration even in these challenging times.” 

- Bukit Batok SMC MP Murali Pillai, who said he has met several residents who are ex-offenders who find it difficult to get jobs or are being underpaid during this pandemic

PRUDENT FISCAL POLICIES AND USAGE OF GOVERNMENT RESERVES

“With sharp deterioration in growth outlooks expected of all major economies, Singapore’s revenue outlook will remain uncertain and challenging for several years to come and I guess we were all worried when DPM spoke about the need for higher taxes. And given the gloomy economic environment residents are understandably concerned about the impending GST hike.” 

- West Coast GRC MP Foo Mee Har, who asked whether the original sum of the S$6 billion assurance package will still hold to cushion the impact of the GST hike 

Source: CNA/hw

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