SINGAPORE - After successfully working with industry associations and government bodies to improve the lot of workers in sectors such as cleaning and health care, the labour movement wants to apply this targeted approach across all sectors in the economy.
By doing so, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) hopes to convince more companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to get on board the national drive to improve productivity.
Their participation is crucial as Singapore eschews high growth in its workforce and economy, and favours lower workforce growth and sustainable economic growth, said NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say on thursday.
Speaking at the NTUC's annual workplan seminar, Mr Lim, however, did not focus on the labour movement's plans for the coming year, as is usual. Instead, he looked further into the future.
If the workforce grows by an average of 5.7 per cent a year, as it has since 2004, Singapore will have 5 million workers by 2020.
This is not sustainable, he said, and Singapore must instead "transform and grow".
It can let its workforce grow by less than 2 per cent a year but it cannot let economic growth fall that low, he said.
Low growth means a less vibrant economy, more unemployment and stagnant wages, he added.
The goal is to have annual growth of 3 to 4 per cent led by productivity, he told more than 700 union leaders, bosses and government representatives at the seminar.
The rates of growth he suggested for the workforce and economy found favour with most in the audience.