'Quantum leap' in productivity needed: Lim Swee Say

'Quantum leap' in productivity needed: Lim Swee Say

Unless Singapore finds a way to improve raise the productivity of its workforce, its days of high economic growth are over, the Manpower Minister says.

SINGAPORE: The days of high economic growth are over, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said at a dialogue session on labour tripartism on Friday (Feb 26). Mr Lim cited the local workforce's slow growth due to the retirement of baby boomers.

Liberally opening the floodgates to foreign manpower is not an option, as this would make Singaporean workers a minority within their own land, so the only solution is to find a way to achieve a "quantum leap in productivity", said Mr Lim, adding that productivity has remained close to zero over the years.

The Manpower Minister proposed what he called a "1+2=3" formula: "1 per cent growth in our workforce, plus 2 per cent growth in our productivity, to give us 3 per cent growth in our GDP."

"Three per cent will be much lower than the 4 per cent, 6 per cent in the past, but we believe that it is a 3 per cent driven by higher productivity, which will be of better quality and will be more sustainable."

Mr Lim added that being manpower-lean while tapping the use of disruptive technology could lead to the creation of more local jobs as the workforce becomes more competitive against global rivals.


The dialogue session, the third of a six-part Pioneering The Future series, also covered Singapore's industrial relations over the past 50 years and how they may change in the future.

Mr Stephen Lee, the immediate past president of the Singapore National Employers Federation, said the tripartite cooperation had been honed over the last 50 years.

"Today this cooperation is a very open and frank one with a lot of goodwill built to take us forward."

While he said tripartite cooperation will not solve all economic problems, "it gives us a much better foundation to bring forward", he added.

On Thursday, the Labour Movement had called for stricter Employment Pass criteria and for the Government to incentivise companies to build a "strong Singaporean core".

But founding Chairman of the National Wages Council Professor Lim Chong Yah felt future growth could not be built on the backs of indigenous Singaporeans alone.

"In order to maintain our position, if not to enhance it, we should continue to import talent. Don't forget these talents were brought up by other people - they've spent their money investing in them. We only get the fruits of their ability and their labour."

Prof Lim said sectors in which a Singapore core should be built in must be carefully selected and deliberated by the tripartite partners.

Source: CNA/mz