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Singapore’s Approach in Charting the Future of Work

Minister of Finance Heng Swee Keat made the opening speech at the Welcome Dinner of The Singapore Conference on The Future of Work last night, 28 April. He spoke of Singapore’s approach in charting the future of work and how it consisted of three main themes.

He said that Singapore’s approach is very much aligned with the ILO’s human-centred agenda for greater investments in workers, and collaboration with stakeholders. Our approach is also in line with the three key themes of the recommendations put forth by the Future of Work Report.

“Let me share the three key themes of our approach: first, strengthening partnerships with tripartite stakeholders and industry; second, investing in our people to ensure that they are equipped with skills for the future; and third, strengthening international cooperation and partnerships to tackle common challenges” said the Finance Minister

Strengthening Partnerships with Tripartite Stakeholders and Industry

The Minister shared that the Report recognises the importance of investing in institutions of work. In Singapore, the Government has all along developed strong partnerships with tripartite and industry stakeholders to create economic growth and an environment for our workers to succeed in.

Central to this is Singapore’s model of tripartism between the Government, employers and the unions. Tripartite leaders are heavily involved in key national policies and are represented in key forums. An example is the National Wages Council, that forge national consensus on wages and wage-related matters. This ensures that policies are robust and well-balanced, meeting the needs of both employers and employees.

In recent years, the government has set up several tripartite workgroups to conduct in-depth studies on key issues and review how existing policies may be improved. Tripartite partners work with academics from Institutes of Higher Learning to gain deeper insights into trends and challenges in the labour market.

Tripartite partners also play a strategic role in charting Singapore’s next phase of economic transformation. Since Budget 2016, we have co-created Industry Transformation Maps for 23 key industries. The Industry Transformation Maps are centred on improving the competitiveness of industries and companies, supporting them in their transformation journeys, and enabling our workers to acquire deep skills and improve productivity. Supporting companies and supporting workers are mutually reinforcing – stronger companies provide better jobs and pay for workers, and highly skilled workers make companies stronger.

“Singapore believes that the best welfare is a job, and the best protection for workers is employment. It is hence important for Singapore to keep a steady growth agenda, become a Global-Asia Node of Technology, Innovation and Enterprise, in order to prepare our workers for the future.” The Finance Minister added.

The next theme Mr Heng Swee Keat elaborated on was investing in people to ensure that they are equipped with skills for the future; and many measures have been put in place to prepare people and workers for life. For the young, the schooling years provide a strong and deep foundation as the government continues to invest in providing a student-centric, values-driven education. This helps the young to develop holistically and prepare them for a lifelong journey of learning. Beyond schools, the government are offering more opportunities to embrace lifelong learning.

The final theme he addressed was strengthening international cooperation and partnerships to tackle common challenges. “The world is facing many complex and transnational challenges such as terrorism, climate change and food security. As we become more interdependent and interconnected, it is even more important for countries and international organisations to work closely together to tackle these challenges within a rules-based, multilateral framework.”

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