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Support schemes in 4 Budgets have saved jobs, but job seekers should ‘keep an open mind’: Josephine Teo

Support schemes in 4 Budgets have saved jobs, but job seekers should ‘keep an open mind’: Josephine Teo

Lau Pa Sat hawker stall operators waiting for customers. (Photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: If Singapore did not have the support programmes introduced in the four Budgets this year, the country would be “drenched in soaring unemployment”, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament on Thursday (Jun 4).
The Jobs Support Scheme, for instance, has helped to cushion the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market.
“(The schemes) are providing much needed cover to businesses and workers, saving jobs and livelihoods,” said Mrs Teo.
“If we did not have this cover, we would already be drenched in soaring unemployment, as can be seen in some countries. We would be dealing with a very different problem today.”
Singapore’s economy is expected to contract by 4 to 7 per cent this year and unemployment is likely to climb. But there is “a window of opportunity to get organised” before it sees further job losses, Mrs Teo said in her speech during the debate on the Fortitude Budget.

READ: Singapore's total employment plunges in Q1, sharpest drop since SARS

The Government will create more employment and training opportunities to help people tide over the COVID-19 economic fallout, she said, but job seekers should also be open to different opportunities.
“We will spare no effort to open up new pathways for job seekers and guide them appropriately - as big a push as we can,” said Mrs Teo.
“But for matches to happen, I urge jobseekers to keep an open mind – stay open to pathways that you would not have considered previously.
“Give the employers a chance and give yourself a chance.”

READ: Fortitude Budget: S$2.9 billion to boost and extend Jobs Support Scheme; SMEs to get more rental relief

READ: Employers that 'disguise retrenchments' may have Jobs Support Scheme, work pass privileges withdrawn: Josephine Teo


In particular, there will be a “big push” to open up new pathways to jobs for those who were retrenched, the self-employed, mid-career workers and fresh graduates, said the Manpower Minister.
“Ideally, (the pathways) should lead to a job. But in today’s context, it may not be an immediate job or a permanent job, it should however be a pathway that allows for people to use their time meaningfully, learn something useful and gain valuable experience,” she added.
Mrs Teo cited the SGUnited Jobs and Skills package, which aims to create about 100,000 jobs, traineeships and training openings. It’s an “epic challenge”, but the Government is committed to create these job opportunities.
“To give members a sense of scale, Workforce Singapore and its partners like e2i and MAS placed an average of 29,000 locals into jobs every year in the last three years,” she told the House.
“The target of close to 100,000 opportunities is not insurmountable but the National Jobs Council will have to work very hard to create the pathways, involving multiple partners.”

READ: Fortitude Budget: More than 40,000 jobs to be created as part of S$2b employment, training package

The new National Jobs Council is led by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
Part of this effort includes bringing forward the public sector’s hiring plans and increasing the number of career conversion programme placements so that there would be 40,000 jobs available this year. 

READ: National Jobs Council will open pathways to jobs amid COVID-19 pandemic: Josephine Teo

But not everyone will be offered a permanent position in the current economic climate, Mrs Teo acknowledged, which is where traineeships come in. 
“These traineeships may not provide the same security as a job, but they will provide valuable industry-relevant experience and better position a jobseeker when the economy recovers,” she added.

READ: Government to set aside S$100 million for traineeship programme amid COVID-19 

For a start, there will be about 25,000 traineeship positions. These include 4,000 for mid-career workers, whom Mrs Teo said have the potential to help businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises, transform.
To date, 1,000 organisations have stepped forward to offer to host more than 11,000 trainees, she said. 
To reach out to more job seekers, the Manpower Ministry will increase the number of physical career centres it has across Singapore, from five to having a presence in all 24 HDB towns. 
The ministry has also been trying to improve its digital offerings on its jobs portal, through virtual career fairs.
Industry partners have been “instrumental” in keeping workers relevant, Mrs Teo pointed out. 
For example, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) retrained almost 4,000 air transport workers for other positions, and is currently trying to help retrenched workers secure new jobs. 

READ: COVID-19: More than 7,000 workers matched to new jobs under NTUC’s Job Security Council

At the same time, the Singapore Business Federation had signed up as an SGUnited Traineeships Programme partner.
“We will reach out and partner more trade associations and chambers to open up the pathways in their respective sectors ... These partnerships can include self-employed persons associations like for sports coaches and media freelancers,” she said.
In her speech, Mrs Teo said that amid the economic downturn, there are “reasons to be hopeful”. 
For one, Singapore has in the past decade invested heavily in lifelong education. There is now a “vibrant” continuing education ecosystem that is able to provide quality training to working adults. 

READ: Continuing Education and Training courses to move online under new COVID-19 measures

READ: SkillsFuture remains ‘one of the most important economic and social strategies for Singapore’s future’: Ong Ye Kung

Industry Transformation Maps, which began rolling out in 2016, have given each sector a blueprint on how companies can continue to grow, and the kinds of people and skills they need. 
The Government’s working partnership with labour unions means it can put its plans into place, said Mrs Teo.
“Working together, we can clear roadblocks and widen existing pathways and open up new pathways where none existed,” she added.
“A big push for these pathways will inspire hope and confidence in our people and keep us moving forward.”

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Source: CNA/cc(gs)


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