SINGAPORE: More can be done to help in the area of jobs and job security for professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) in the Republic, Mr Patrick Tay said in Parliament on Thursday (Jan 28), suggesting tweaks to the PME dependency ratio and stricter criteria for Employment Pass applications.
He said Singapore should not just move from a "Manpower Led" to a "Manpower Lean" economy, but also move to a "Singaporean PME Led" and "Foreigner PME Lean" economy.
On Thursday morning, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) announced that employment growth in 2015 was at a 12-year low, while redundancy in the fourth quarter increased, and unemployment remained largely unchanged.
However, Mr Tay said that he expected an uptrend in unemployment, especially for PMEs.
The MOM's announcement was "a timely reminder"of the pressing need to redouble efforts to "restructure and find breakthroughs" before Singapore workers, especially PMEs, are left behind, said the West Coast GRC Member of Parliament (MP).
Mr Tay noted that PMEs face three mismatches: In skills, expectations and jobs. To prevent an increase in the unemployment in PMEs and PME redundancy, as well as a dip in employment creation and subsequently a drop in the hiring of locals, Singapore has to strengthen three "C"s: The Singaporean "Core", the "Connection" between PMEs and jobs, and the "Careers" of PMEs to ensure they are future ready.
STRENGTHENING THE CORE
To this end, the MP suggested that a PME dependency ratio - similar to that for work permits and S passes - be imposed for "problem sectors". These sectors - particularly the IT and financial sectors - display a "weak Singaporean core" and a "weak commitment to hire and develop Singaporeans", he said.
Mr Tay also suggested that stricter Employment Pass application conditions and requirements be imposed on companies in the problem sectors.
He also urged employers, when they undergo downsizing and restructuring, to let go of Singaporean PMEs last.
EXPANDING THE CAREER SUPPORT PROGRAMME
To strengthen the connection of PMEs to jobs, Mr Tay called for a joint effort across agencies, tripartite partners and stakeholders to point out where the supply gaps and in-demand jobs are.
"Even as we re-create current jobs and create new jobs, we should provide diversity and variety so that we can marry aspirations, passions, skills with good jobs and quality jobs," he said.
Mr Tay also touched on the Career Support Programme (CSP), saying that many employers and PMEs were unaware of the programme which was rolled out in Ocotober last year. He suggested that the CSP - which provides subsidies to employers who hire mature PMEs 40 years old and above for jobs with payments of S$4,000 and above - be further promoted, positioned and expanded to provide "targeted help" to all PMEs.
"The CSP must drive and alter the behaviour of our companies and businesses and the mindsets of employers to seriously consider our mature PMEs," said Mr Tay. "It will also provide our PMEs more options and opportunities in this challenging landscape."