SINGAPORE: A programme that makes it easier for job seekers to try out new careers will now include part-time positions, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced on Tuesday (Mar 5).
The Career Trial programme, an upgrade of the Work Trial scheme, provides job seekers with training allowance for up to three months as they take up one of the applicable jobs on a trial basis.
They will receive a bonus if they stay at the job for at least three months after the trial, according to a Workforce Singapore factsheet. The programme also dishes out salary support to employers.
Mrs Teo said she hopes the enhanced Career Trial programme will benefit more job seekers who have caregiving responsibilities and help employers become more comfortable managing part-time workers.
“Sometimes, job seekers and employers are unsure about each other,” said Mrs Teo. “Career Trial helps job seekers and employers get to know each other better before signing on the dotted line.”
The programme helped about 730 workers find new jobs last year, up more than 40 per cent in 2017, she added.
In an hour-long speech delivered during the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament, the minister also provided updates about other initiatives aimed at helping workers keep pace with economic restructuring and technological disruptions.
Among the 30,000 people who found jobs through the Adapt and Grow Initiative last year, more than half were professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).
Beyond PMETs, the initiative also helped more than 9,000 people with secondary-level qualifications or below.
Older workers aged 50 and above also benefited, with nearly 9,000 being placed into new roles – a more than 20 per cent increase compared to 2017, said Mrs Teo.
Authorities are also tapping on technology to help those in need of work.
MyCareersFuture.sg, the new job-matching portal launched last April to give job seekers a smarter and more efficient tool for skills-to-job matching, has thus far received more than 2 million visits and more than 1.7 million applications.
Turning to underemployment, a topic that was raised by West Coast GRC MP Patrick Tay and Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim, the minister said Singapore’s resident time-related underemployment rate has been declining over the past decade and currently stands at 3.3 per cent.
This is lower than many other developed economies such as Australia (9.1 per cent), France (7.9 per cent) and Sweden (5.5 per cent), and is on par with the OECD average.
On the other hand, Germany (3 per cent), Switzerland (3 per cent), Norway (1.4 per cent) and the United States (1.1 per cent) are countries that have lower underemployment rates.
Singapore adopts a time-related definition that refers underemployment as part-time workers who are willing and able to engage in additional hours. This is the only form of underemployment that has a recognised statistical definition internationally, said Mrs Teo.
The Ministry of Manpower is interested in tracking other forms of underemployment, such as skills-related underemployment, but these have no internationally recognised measures at the moment.
It is therefore working closely with the International Labour Organisation to develop suitable methodologies, she said.
Ms Lim, in her Budget debate speech last week, mentioned a 2017 survey done by the Ong Teng Cheong Labour Leadership Institute. The study adopted a multi-factor definition that included wage and qualification, and yielded an underemployment rate of 4.3 per cent. In her speech, the opposition MP had called on the Government to study underemployment more thoroughly and monitor its effects on society.
Addressing that, Mrs Teo said while the use of other indicators is possible, one must be cautious about interpreting the study’s findings.
“It was based on a relatively small sample size of 1,600, with only 70 respondents identified as ‘underemployed’,” she said. “Generally, interpreting wage or qualifications-based indicators is not straightforward.”
Some graduates may receive lower allowances while training for high-earning jobs, such as lawyers on training contracts. Others may choose to forgo a higher salary in order to invest their time and energy in their families or their passions, said Mrs Teo.
“Ultimately, the best way to reduce the risk of underemployment is to keep the labour market tight,” she added.
“Therefore, every time we tweak labour market policies, we must always remember not to go overboard. We should avoid weakening the labour market inadvertently.”