Worries about jobs in a tepid economy were uppermost in the minds of five MPs as they shot a series of questions at Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say yesterday, with a sharp focus on help for retrenched professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) and job -matching.
Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) asked for the success rates of job-matching and training programmes in helping PMETs, while Nominated MP Randolph Tan wondered whether the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) monitored if participants of the programmes stayed on at the jobs they were placed in.
Responding, Mr Lim said 6,400 PMETs found jobs through statutory board Workforce Singapore and the Employment and Employability Institute in the first nine months of this year.
Also, the number of schemes to help PMETs switch careers will expand from 22 to 50 by year's end.
His ministry also tracks participants of training and job placement programmes by age and sectors.
But the key indicator of the programmes' success is whether people stay employed, said Mr Lim. "Even if they leave the company but continue to be in employment, the outcome is still positive.''
Latest figures show 11,890 workers were retrenched in the first nine months of this year. But figures on how many of them were PMETs are not available.
Last year, of the 13,450 workers retrenched, more than 9,000 were residents, of whom about seven in 10 were PMETs.
Labour MP Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) suggested MOM work closely with unions and bosses to reduce the number of job mismatches. Mr Lim agreed, saying: "There's a lot more we need to do and can do."
Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) asked if MOM would encourage companies to give a forecast of their hiring plans before allowing them to hire foreigners.
Mr Lim said that while employment forecasts can be made for industries, "not many companies are prepared to make that kind of commitment upfront".
Labour MP Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) asked MOM to consider linking job training and placement programmes with the new jobs that investments bring.
The minister said that was already being done, with training and job placement programmes arming workers with new skills in demand. Portable medical benefits for workers was another issue raised.
Will the Government promote or even make it compulsory for companies to give medical benefits tied to the individual worker rather than to his employment with the company?
Mr Lim, in his reply to Mr Ong Teng Koon (Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC) and Nominated MP and union leader K Thanaletchimi, said portable medical benefits are not popular because companies find their premiums costlier.
"The take-up rate has not been high," he said. Only 4 per cent of companies surveyed by MOM in 2013 gave that benefit.
He added that the Government sees MediShield Life, introduced last year, as a portable medical insurance scheme that companies can be encouraged to tap on.
MOM will work with unions and employers to promote the scheme, Mr Lim said.
This article was first published on November 9, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.