SINGAPORE: Hard work is needed to sustain Singapore's growth amid the mixed economic outlook this year, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his May Day message on Sunday (Apr 30).
Mr Lee noted that, even as Singapore's total employment expands, it is also seeing more retrenchments, and that unemployment is "creeping up".
"The mixed picture shows an economy in transition," Mr Lee said, noting that some existing jobs are being lost, even while new jobs are being created.
While Singapore's economy can no longer grow at 5-7 per cent, it can still achieve 2-3 per cent growth by improving its productivity, Mr Lee said. "2-3 per cent is a good growth rate for our current stage of development. It will mean we can continue creating new jobs and improving our lives.
"We must also work harder to help workers stay employed, and find replacement jobs if they become unemployed. Other developed countries have unemployment rates of 5 per cent or higher. Our rate is currently lower at 2.2 per cent, but as our economy matures, I expect that to creep up.
The Prime Minister said that the Government would take the lead and give full support to employers and workers, but that it has to be a "tripartite effort". "Our businesses must be willing to transform, adopt new technologies, expand overseas and seize the opportunities out there.
"Our workers must be adaptable, keen to upgrade and reskill themselves, when necessary changing careers to secure good jobs."
Mr Lee cited SkillsFuture and Adapt and Grow as initiatives that offer concrete help to workers, and added that workers who have lost their jobs can turn to job-matching and professional conversion courses.
He added that close attention is also being paid to professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who worry about being displaced.
"The Government is always on the side of workers, but we make sure we are business-friendly and support our businesses to grow so that we have jobs for all," he said.
Mr Lee added that the spirit of tripartism has helped Singapore overcome many challenges. "I am confident that it will carry us through this next stage of transformation," he said.
The annual May Day Rally will take place on Monday at Our Tampines Hub, where Mr Lee is expected to address members of the labour movement.