Local news on the labour front for February 2020.
Manpower news in Singapore this month included:
– The novel coronavirus outbreak has severely affected Singapore and its workers. The government has put an emphasis on sustainable, long-term measures to deal with its effects on the workforce. We have reported on the issue here and here.
– Budget 2020 focused largely on helping industries and workers to deal with the impact of the Covid-19 spread. A $4 billion package was rolled out to help Singapore tide through the outbreak, with the Jobs Support Scheme and enhancements to the Wage Credit Scheme targeting workers specifically. Also, SkillsFuture credit top-ups and enhancements to the Adapt and Grow initiatives were announced. We summarised budget concerns affecting labour in our report here.
– Singapore is determined not to leave behind any of its middle-aged workers, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said during a Chinese New Year lunch. The government announced plans to help middle-aged workers upskill themselves through schemes like the Professional Conversion Programme. This will also help reassure workers who feel uncertain about their prospects in light of current geopolitical uncertainty and the Wuhan virus outbreak.
– A report released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) tracking changes in the labour force from June 2009 to June 2019 showed that the employment rate of citizens rose to 63.6 per cent last year, up from 60 per cent in 2009, mostly due to more employment for older workers aged 65 and up. The number of PMETs employed also increased over the decade from 742,800 (47%) in June 2009 to 1,050,300 (56%) in June 2019. Mirroring this trend, the median income growth of Singaporeans also increased, from 2.1% in 2014 to 3.9% in 2019.
– MOM’s yearly report on employment in 2019 was released on 30 January 2020. Highlights of the report include an increase in employment rate for residents and some increase in the median income from 2018 to 2019, while retrenchments remained low and stayed at the same level as 2018.
– Reports from whistle-blowers led to most of the 2,000 investigations on workplace discrimination reported from 2014 to 2018. Approximately 50% of the complaints were related to nationality, while some 25% were related to age or gender. The ministry acted in 680 of these cases after investigations by the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (Tafep). Depending on complexity of the case, investigations took anywhere from one month to six months.
– A study conducted by the Institute of Police Studies (IPS) showed that more paternity leave and measures to reduce stigma would help support fathers in active parenting. Interviewees outlined instances of stigma such as derisive comments and implied criticism. However, the report suggested that economic factors play a large factor over gender norms in dads’ decisions to stay home.
– Workforce Singapore (WSG) will work with the Singapore Semiconductor Industry Association (SSIA) and other industry stakeholders to ramp up reskilling efforts for workers and companies in the electronics sector. This is to capitalise on opportunities in the areas of Artificial Intelligence and autonomous vehicles be reskilling workers in more stagnant industries such as consumer electronics.
– More than 80% of jobseekers do not feel discriminated against for gender, race, religion, nationality, marital status or number of children, a 2018 MOM survey reported. Complaints about workplace discrimination fell more than 65% from 2015 to 2018 and more than eight in 10 job seekers here say they do not feel discriminated against. Elaborating on the findings, Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad also said that complaints on workplace discrimination dropped from 580 in 2015 to 200 in 2018, making up less than 1% of total complaints. An occasional paper on fair employment is scheduled to be released later this year.
– A study by Qualtrics found that Singaporean employee engagement is below the global average, at 47% compared to the 53% average. Singapore scored lower than Britain (50%), Malaysia (54%), the United States (55%) and India (79%). Nearly 20% of those surveyed here also said they intended to stay with their current employer for less than a year, while 38% said they would look for a new job within two years. The report was based on metrics such as opportunities for growth and development, manager effectiveness, and support and resources. Additionally, it identified the top drivers of employee engagement in Singapore.
– A difficult job market, age, and a lack of financial resources were the top barriers to success, as cited by Singaporeans. In a poll commissioned by LinkedIn, Singapore scored 95 for confidence in job opportunities (where a score above 100 indicated higher confidence and below that less confidence). The index ranked 22 markets based on seven factors, including quality of life in terms of happiness, outlook on the economy over the next 12 months and confidence in achieving success. Singapore did poorly in terms of levels of happiness and confidence in achieving success, but ranked higher for a better quality of life.
– Manpower Minister Josephine Two released data that indicated that about three in four white-collar jobs in growth sectors are filled by Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs). (Growth sectors refers to healthcare, finance and insurance services, and information and communications.) She elaborates that locals take up a wide range of jobs, including data analysts, digital advertising professionals and technical sales engineers. Results from professional conversion programmes have been encouraging as well, she noted, pointing out that about nine in 10 programme participants remained employed two years after placement.
– Income inequality in Singapore fell to its lowest level in almost two decades last year. The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality from 0 to 1 (with 0 being the most equal), fell to 0.452 in 2019, lower than 0.458 in 2018. The Key Household Income Trends report released by the Department of Statistics noted that government transfers and taxes reduced the Gini coefficient even further to 0.398. Possible reasons for the drop include initiatives to boost low-wage workers’ incomes, and a weakening economy hitting high-earning jobs hard.
– The Committee on Future Asatizah (Cofa) released its recommendations on 24 February 2020, which included a skills framework to give them access to relevant job sectors, and a talent development programme to groom asatizah to be institution leaders. Cofa’s recommendations will help future religious teachers function as leaders and exemplary professionals, so that they can effectively guide Muslims here and help ensure peace and harmony continue to prevail in Singapore.
– State investor Temasek will be implementing a salary freeze on all employees, including promotion increases, for its April compensation exercise. Senior management will also be allowed to take a voluntary base salary reduction of up to 5 per cent, for a period of up to one year. This is in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, and the amount saved will be set aside to support the community.
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