Crucial to 'speed up efforts' to become more manpower-lean, productive

THE Manpower Ministry (MOM) and Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) have both stressed the need to make the most of limited labour supply in their May Day messages ahead of Sunday.

In their messages yesterday, both stressed the need for productivity growth, which was only 0.4 per cent per year between 2010 and 2015.

"Manpower could become the bottleneck of our future growth unless we speed up efforts to become a more manpower-lean economy and a more productive workforce," noted Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say, in his first May Day message since taking on the portfolio. He was previously labour chief for eight years.

"This is the only way to ensure that businesses can continue to grow (and) unemployment can stay low while wages... keep moving up," he said.

Good people will always be in short supply so tripartite partners - employers, unions and the Government - should work together to harness that resource, said Mr Lim.

Addressing the economic uncertainty, he added: "Working in unity, our tripartite partners have led the economy and labour force through downturns and emerged stronger and more vibrant each time."

Singapore's slower economic, employment and productivity growth was also highlighted by SNEF president Robert Yap in his May Day message.

Calling the need to raise productivity "urgent", he said employers and unions must tackle three workforce demographic challenges in order to do so.

First, businesses must change their processes, use more automation and upgrade workers' skills to counter the slowing of workforce growth to 1 per cent per year and plateauing from 2020 onwards.

Second, human-resource practices should change to account for an ageing workforce - the proportion of the resident workforce aged 55 years and above rose from 13.4 per cent in 2006 to 22.3 per cent last year. Older workers should also be prepared to pick up new skills and roles.

Third, rising education levels here underline the need for better quality jobs for Singaporean professionals, managers and executives, who must also take ownership of their skills development, he said.

Dr Yap added that bosses and workers will also have to contend with rapid technological advancements and new business models.

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