SINGAPORE: Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the Economic Development Board (EDB) has in the first four months of this year secured about S$13 billion in investment commitments for the “next few years”, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said.
This “very good performance” means Singapore has exceeded the S$8 billion to S$10 billion which had been projected for the whole of 2020.
These investments, in sectors including electronics and infocomm, will generate “a few thousand jobs” for workers in Singapore in the coming years, Mr Chan told reporters during a media briefing on Saturday (May 30).
Companies such as chipmaker Micron and life sciences firm Thermo Fisher Scientific are adding jobs, he said.
Micron aims to add 1,500 jobs in Singapore over the next few years, while Thermo Fisher Scientific is increasing hiring due to a surge in demand for its COVID-19 test kits.
“This reflects the sustained confidence of many major investors, major businesses in our economy,” he said, noting new investments into the economy are needed to create jobs.
“So if you look at the overall portfolio, because we have diversified our economy, we have a range of new jobs and new opportunities from the new investments. And that should give us some cheer, although we shouldn't be complacent," he added.
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While unemployment has crept up to slightly more than 3 per cent, this is still much better than what was feared, Mr Chan said, noting that other countries have seen a “huge spike in unemployment in a very short time” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are unlikely to return to a pre-COVID world, because many things have changed. Global demand has changed, global supply chains have changed,” he said.
A post-COVID-19 world is also not yet on the horizon, the minister said, adding that a vaccine or affordable rapid test kits are unlikely to be available in the near-term.
As such, people must "learn to live and make a living" amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Mr Chan said.
There will be job displacement from old industries into new ones, requiring a certain amount of retraining and upskilling for workers, he added.
“We are quite clear that we will not be able to preserve every job in the whole economy,” the minister stated.
“But we are determined to make sure that we can help every Singaporean and businesses transit to the new equilibrium, or the new normal as we call it.”
The Government is taking a "multi-pronged strategy" to securing jobs and businesses, he said.
This involves approaches such as helping companies hire ahead and working with trade associations and chambers to increase the number of apprenticeships in various sectors for both fresh graduates and those going through mid-career transitions.
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When asked if Singapore would review its reliance on foreign manpower, Mr Chan said the demand was "not monolithic" and served to complement the Singapore workforce.
“Our position has always been to see how we can reduce the dependence on the low wage workers in the construction industry, in the cleaning industry, in the security industry (and) so forth,” he said.
Reducing the country’s reliance on foreign manpower would also involve reducing the demand for manpower in certain sectors. This could mean using more high-tech methods in construction, incorporating greater security features when designing new buildings and people adopting "social habits" of cleaning up after themselves and taking care of the environment.
"We are constantly looking to see how we can get ... talented foreign manpower to complement the Singapore workforce, because if they are not competing on our side, then they are competing against us," he said.
“We would like to have talented individuals to be part of team Singapore, rather than competing against Singapore if they were somewhere else,” he added.