SINGAPORE: Unemployment could rise further as Singapore's economy continues its transition, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said in his May Day message on Friday (Apr 28).
He noted that retrenchments are on the rise and the resident unemployment rate increased to 3 per cent last year, after holding steady at about 2.8 per cent since 2012.
"This is not a first. It has happened before in the past 20 years such as the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997, dotcom crash in 2001, SARS outbreak in 2003 and the Global Financial Crisis in 2009," Mr Lim said.
Pointing out the difference this time around, Mr Lim said Singapore's economy is still growing and the rise in unemployment is gradual. "(It) remains below the previous peaks of more than 5 per cent during SARS and more than 4 per cent during the Global Financial Crisis," he said.
Even so, he noted that the transition Singapore faces this time is less cyclical and more structural. Some sectors are still under stress, and unlike previous recoveries, "more time and effort is needed to get through this transition completely".
Mr Lim reiterated the need for a leaner workforce, innovation and higher productivity to ensure Singapore remains competitive globally - not just for good investments and markets, but also good jobs and careers.
"There is no shortcut to success. Enterprises, big and small, that are able to transform faster, will be able to grow stronger in the future economy. Likewise for workers, young and old. Those who are able to cope with workplace disruptions, learn new skills and work with new technologies, will be able to better capture the many opportunities we are creating for them, here and overseas," he said.
Mr Lim added that a "healthy and strong" tripartite partnership is "fully committed" to help businesses transform and assist workers in moving forward.
"On this May Day, we celebrate the tremendous contributions of all workers for making Singapore what it is today. Let us all pledge to always work together and support one another, complete the economic transition successfully to create a better future for our people, our businesses and our nation," he said, in concluding his May Day message.
The Labour Movement's May Day message also stressed the need for workers in Singapore to adapt to the changing conditions. The National Trades Union Congress' (NTUC) President Mary Liew and Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing said that as technology disruption continues, workers "must continually deep-skill, reskill and upskill".
"Similarly, the Labour Movement must continuously evolve to stay relevant to anticipate our new economy’s needs and working people’s aspirations," they said.
Among its plans to do so, NTUC said it will work with its tripartite partners to help workers adapt and grow, as well as work to look out for future job opportunities. It also raised the importance of continuously evolving its social enterprises.
"We must disrupt ourselves before others disrupt us and provide new services to meet the needs of tomorrow," the message said. "Our Labour Movement will journey with our working people to fulfil our potential and share the fruits of our economic transformation together."