Halimah Yacob: Jobseekers must be willing to change

Halimah Yacob: Jobseekers must be willing to change

That was Madam Halimah Yacob's wake-up call to those who have lost their jobs amid the economic uncertainties.

"I know it's really very challenging, if you've been an engineer for years, to try to move to another sector.

"But you will have to do that. Because this sector is producing fewer jobs, and manufacturing has become more automated," said the 62-year-old Speaker of Parliament.

In a wide-ranging interview, the unionist-turned-politician, spoke to The New Paper on Tuesday about jobs and the economy, and her thoughts about the changes to the elected presidency.

The number of layoffs this year is expected to top last year's, when 13,440 workers lost their jobs, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say told Parliament last month.

The reasons have been well-documented - disruptions in several industries and jobs evolving faster than workers can be retrained for them.

Against this backdrop, concern over job security is starting to creep in among her constituents at Marsiling-Yew Tee, Madam Halimah said.

"I've seen cases of people losing their jobs, retrenchments... This is something we really need to monitor.

"Most, I find, are able to manage on their own in terms of getting an alternative job.

"What they do need is temporary support when they have no income to tide them over," she said.

In her 33 years in the labour movement, Madam Halimah has seen many cycles of retrenchment.


She said: "I cannot forget those years, especially the crisis we had in 2008 and 2009.

"I really understand where they are coming from. I really empathise with them.

"They are not just a digit because retrenchments, loss of jobs, affect them personally, very poignantly."

The silver lining in the gloomy economic outlook is that there are jobs available, and Singapore has proactive labour market policies to help those who are retrenched.

They include job-matching through Workforce Singapore, looking for jobs through the revised Jobs Bank, and reskilling under the SkillsFuture initiative.

Madam Halimah said: "This form of technological disruption has been going on for a while, except the pace will hasten and it will continue."

This article was first published on November 30, 2016.
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