The Dive: If Singapore chooses economic growth, do we risk leaving our workers behind?

By February 29, 2020Current, The Dive

 TL;DR – Workers need to move in tandem with companies to upskill.

The Dive is our new weekend feature where we bring you in-depth news, interesting insights and different perspectives on the latest trends or issues that matter.

A strategic Budget 2020 set out to help workers and businesses 

Budget 2020 is a strategic one – not only does it serve to address short-term concerns of workers and businesses but also seeks to invest in Singapore’s long term economic growth.  

We saw a massive $4 billion package rolled out to help companies and workers navigate through economic uncertainties caused by the recent COVID-19. The Stabilisation and Support Package will help companies defray costs of workers through the Jobs Support Scheme as well as support enterprises who raise workers salaries through the Wage Credit Scheme. 

Another $8.3 billion will be set aside to be spent across the next 3 years to help quicken Singapore’s transformation and growth strategy. 

Looking at these dizzying numbers of enormous amounts of money spent can make one wonder – what is all this for? 

Stabilisation and Support Package via


Charging ahead as One Singapore 

Our tiny red dot is unique. We have absolutely no natural resources that typically make up a portion of a country’s baseline export. The only resource we do have – manpower. This means that Singapore’s economic success is largely dependent on its citizens in the workforce. With rapid changes in technology as well as globalisation and no natural resources to fall back on, it has always been pivotal that Singapore stays at the forefront of these changes. 

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The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) has always been tasked to forecast the trends and changes in the various industries and chart out Singapore’s future in the new economy. MTI leads this charge, driving innovation, productivity, skills upgrading, growth, internationalisation etc through 23 Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs). All these efforts help to reposition Singapore’s industries on the global stage so we remain competitive.

In the recent Budget Debate, Deputy Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress and Senior Minister of State for MTI, Dr Koh Poh Koon called on companies to think long term and focus on industry transformation. 

“In coping with the near term challenges brought about by COVID-19, our companies should therefore not forget about the long-term goal of growing and expanding their businesses through deeper industry transformation.”

He also emphasized on turning the crisis into an opportunity for transformation and training of workers. 

During a downturn when the volume of work is reduced, the enhanced Enterprise Development Grant (EDG) and the newly announced SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit can help companies to redesign jobs, upskill their workers and look at long term business transformation so that when economic recovery occurs, companies will be able to swiftly respond and capture new opportunities.” 


Leave no worker behind 

Even while businesses focus on long term growth, they should leave no worker behind. The emphasis on workers has been reiterated by the 4G leadership through various touch points.  

Epilogue to Min Chan Chun Sing’s leaked audio drama: #OurBengSteady and his two comrades

Dr Koh Poh Koon’s unique position as Deputy Secretary General of NTUC as well as Senior Minister of Trade and Industry means that he is clued in on the various ITMs, giving him foresight on where economic growth is headed and also have the ability to galvanise workers to upgrade and remain competitive. 

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Workers need to move in tandem with companies. To do this, the National Trades Union Congress has pioneered the Company Training Committees (CTCs) where union leaders work together with management identify disrupted jobs and new roles, as well as curate relevant training to help workers in the companies keep up with industry transformation. 

Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress, Ng Chee Meng, also touched on CTCs amongst other initiatives in his recent budget speech. 

2 years as NTUC’s Secretary-General, Ng Chee Meng gets better & better at identifying what workers really need

Balancing act 

While the Government sets its sight on growing Singapore’s economy through massive capital injection from foreign investors, this sometimes comes with a caveat, a lot of jobs created might fall into the hands of foreign workers as the local workforce has yet to develop that skillset. It is a balancing act of getting investment in first and then leveling up the skills sets of Singaporeans to later fill these positions.  

With our cards played right, globalisation and economic growth would not be at the expense of workers but for workers, ensuring good job opportunities for our future generations!  

P.S. If you are a Gen Z/millenial, the article below would speak to you.

Top 3 Things That Keep Millennial & Gen Z Workers Up At Night




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Jasmine C

Author Jasmine C

Pens random musings of life for anyone who would listen to an idealistic yet practical soul. xx

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