15 September 2011

Silver Lining the Dark Clouds

15 September 2011

“Zero job growth”.

This was a rather alarming headline on many international newspapers last week. Global economic conditions remain worrying. The latest US job market data shows high unemployment rate of above 9% for the fifth straight month.

US President Barack Obama’s speech on the American Jobs Act last week – on the various suggestions to grow the economy, help businesses, create jobs and put more Americans back into the workforce –come at an opportune time. Let’s hope things can get better because Singapore will not be spared from the adverse effects should US plunge into a recession or if Europe’s sovereign debt crisis spreads.

Singapore's employment creation moderated in Q2 2011. Our unemployment rate has edged up against such a backdrop, although they remain at very low levels by international standards.

Layoffs and job vacancies stayed at healthy levels. The labour market is expected to remain tight, notwithstanding the economic moderation in 2Q 2011 (+0.5% Y-o-Y growth). MTI expects Singapore’s GDP to grow by 5 to 6% in 2011 – but this could eventually be lower if market conditions in US and Europe worsen. There can be an impact on jobs for our people.

We are keeping a very close watch on the unfolding global situation. While we may not be able to stay immune from the economic contagion, we should try to build up our immune system or inoculate ourselves as best as we can. The best way to do this would be to raise our productivity and skills.

Employers and workers must seize opportunities to improve their productivity levels to remain globally competitive even in the face of bleak economic conditions. For instance, employers can invest in productivity improvements and redesign jobs by tapping on the Productivity and Innovation Credit. Companies can step up their R&D and innovation efforts and improve their HR and management practices to run their businesses more effectively and efficiently.

At the same time, workers can upgrade their skills and enhance their efficiency by taking up relevant training courses to be more adept in handling complex tasks. Many training courses are subsidised by the Government. With higher skills, you will be more employable and ready to take on jobs with greater value-add.

As companies scrutinize their presence worldwide, our efforts in shaping our economy to be one that is driven by productivity would put us in good stead. More importantly, this would help us be sustainable so that all Singaporeans will be able to benefit from the economic progress and jobs created.

As we have done so before, I am confident that our strong tripartite partnership will again see us through the impending storm. But we need to work hard and stay united for our common cause.

Minister of State Tan Chuan-Jin
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