SINGAPORE: The issue of protecting the jobs of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) has to be looked at holistically, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, while stressing that it is also important to continue creating good jobs.
Mr Heng, the People's Action Party's (PAP) first assistant secretary-general, was speaking on Wednesday evening (Jul 1) during a virtual rally for East Coast GRC, where he is contesting in this election.
A participant had asked if Singapore was doing enough to protect PMET jobs, highlighting that multinational companies in the country seemed to be letting go of PMETs "easily" amid economic strains brought about by COVID-19.
"We have to look at the jobs rather holistically. What we need to do is not just to protect jobs, but also to create good jobs," Mr Heng said.
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On protecting jobs, Mr Heng said the Fair Consideration Framework, which tells employers that they should not discriminate based on age, gender, nationality or race when it comes to job opportunities, ensures that employees are "treated well".
The Ministry of Manpower and National Trades Union Congress will also look at these issues, he said.
"What is even more important is that we must continue to create good jobs," he reiterated.
"Our workers now will have to compete with workers all over the world. And what will give us an edge is that our workers have special skills to be able to do better than other workers."
Mr Heng said the Government is doing this by combining the upgrading of companies with schemes to upgrade workers.
"So we create jobs and do proper matching," he added.
"In order to help our workers learn more skills, we are having SkillsFuture credits and SkillsFuture subsidies for a very wide range of courses, and these courses are matched with new growth areas."
Mr Heng, who is also the Finance Minister, had announced in his first Budget in February that every Singaporean aged 25 and above will get a one-off S$500 SkillsFuture top-up.
A new SkillsFututre Enterprise Credit will also give companies S$10,000 each to defray 90 per cent of out-of-pocket costs for business transformation, job redesign and skills training.
Mr Heng said during the Wednesday rally that the Emerging Stronger Task Force will also look at new industries that can be further developed to create better jobs for people.
"We are also going further downstream, and one of the things ... is that our children are going to face even more intense competition in the years ahead," he said.
"That's the reason why we are revamping our education system. In the Institute of Technical Education, polytechnics and universities, we have a stronger element of applied learning, and a whole range of earn-and-learn programmes."
GOVERNMENT WORKING ON CREATING MORE GOOD QUALITY JOBS: JESSICA TAN
Another participant in the rally pointed out that while the Government wanted to create "quality jobs", she felt that listings on its jobs portal were not of quality.
The PAP's Ms Jessica Tan, who is also running in East Coast GRC together with Mr Heng, Dr Maliki Osman, Ms Cheryl Chan and Mr Tan Kiat How, said the Government is still working on it due to the current economic situation.
"I will ask you to go to the Workforce Singapore site, and in there you will find that there are about 28,000 jobs that are listed," she said.
"It is a full range of jobs, and some of them are very good quality jobs. They range from different industries as well."
Ms Tan said the Government will create 100,000 jobs and traineeships, including those in the government and private sectors.
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Mr Heng had said during the Fortitude Budget in May, the fourth budget this year, that the Government will create 40,000 jobs as part of a S$2 billion package to improve the employment situation in an economy weakened by COVID-19.
This is in addition to 25,000 traineeships and 30,000 skills training placements.
"At the same time, there will be traineeships that will allow people to get connected back into the industry," Ms Tan said on Wednesday.
"It's not like a full-time job yet, but it will allow for people to be able to get in touch with the industry to pick up skills and experience in a new job, a new area and for companies to also assess and get a feel of those individuals."
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Dr Maliki noted that those who are looking for jobs will often have other issues they need help with. He said he would look into these issues "holistically".
When a rally participant asked why the Government has repeatedly raised the jobs issue, Dr Maliki replied: "We know it's a problem, that's why we're talking about it. Because we know it is in the heart of many Singaporeans".
"It's not because we want to sound like a broken record, but it's because we have been hearing so much on the ground, and we understand the concerns of Singaporeans out there," he added.