Analysis: Govt's proposed re-employment support plugs crucial gap in helping displaced workers pick up skills, switch careers
SINGAPORE — Introducing re-employment support in Singapore could plug a crucial gap in ensuring Singaporean workers are more willing to pick up new skills and change careers.
- HR and labour experts said introducing re-employment support could encourage displaced workers here to pick up new skills and change careers
- It would also give workers peace of mind while job-hunting and ensure a better job-match, they said
- On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said the Government is considering such a scheme to help displaced workers make ends meet
- He also announced plans to professionalise blue-collar workers
- Experts agreed that professionalising blue-collar jobs will help to reduce the wage gap with white-collar workers, but said that consumers must be willing to pay more for their services
SINGAPORE — Introducing re-employment support for displaced workers could plug a crucial gap in ensuring that they are better equipped to pick up new skills and change careers, experts said after the Government flagged this possibility.
Such support, along with moves to revamp the SkillsFuture programme and professionalise blue-collar work, could create "happier workers all around", human resource and labour experts told TODAY.
They were commenting on several proposals announced by the Government on Monday to provide better social support and skills training for workers here.
Speaking in Parliament during a debate on President Halimah Yacob’s address, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said that the Government is considering the introduction of a re-employment scheme to help displaced workers make ends meet.
Such a “targeted” scheme could reduce the strain on displaced workers while encouraging them to upskill and search for jobs, Mr Wong said.
The Government is also looking to professionalise blue-collar jobs to narrow the wage gap across professions as well as revamp the SkillsFuture programme, said Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister.
The aim, he said, is for Singapore to become a “full-fledged learning society — from cradle to grave”.
BETTER JOB MATCHES THROUGH RE-EMPLOYMENT SCHEME
Human resources experts and labour economists said that such a re-employment scheme would give workers greater peace of mind when job hunting, instead of worrying about their finances.
Re-employment benefits typically involve providing retrenched workers with direct financial assistance until they find another job. The benefits may be funded by the Government or through insurance premiums from employers or workers. Mr Wong did not spell out the details of the plan in his speech.
Mr Adrian Tan, a human resources analyst, said that a re-employment scheme would give workers more time to job-hunt and a higher chance of securing a role for which they are better suited.
In his speech, Mr Wong had said that in designing a re-employment scheme, the Government would want to avoid making it more attractive for displaced workers to stay unemployed rather than returning to the workforce.
Mr Adrian Choo, a career coach, said that one way the Government could do this is to limit the funding provided to displaced workers to a period of three months.
The Government should also clarify which type of workers that they aim to support, and tailor re-employment benefits accordingly, added labour economist Walter Theseira.
Support aimed at higher-earning professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) would need more funding to align with their greater expenses, he said.
Conversely, this financial support could be lower for low-income workers who may have lower expenses, said Associate Professor Theseira, of the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).
In such a situation, if Singapore implements unemployment insurance programmes, higher-earning workers should pay higher insurance premiums to qualify for a higher payout, he added.
REVAMPING SKILLSFUTURE AND NARROWING THE WAGE GAP
On revamping the SkillsFuture programme, experts said that the courses on offer could be diversified.
Mr Choo, the chief executive officer of human resources company Career Agility International, said that the courses on offer under the programme could also include more practical artisanal or trade skills such as carpentry or leather-crafting.
This would be useful for mid-career workers, including white-collar ones, to pivot to other types of industries, or let people make a living out of their hobbies, he said.
Experts were also supportive of the proposed professionalisation of blue-collar jobs, although they said that it would have to go beyond providing accreditation for skilled workers.
Mr Tan, the human resources analyst, said that the professionalising of blue-collar jobs and reducing the wage gap would have an important benefit.
The move would mean that those not suited to white collar jobs but inclined to pursue them merely because of their higher wages would be more likely to consider a craft that better suits them, he said.
This would result in “happier workers all round”, said Mr Tan.
In his speech, Mr Wong had suggested professionalising skilled trades such as electricians and plumbers by allowing them to be accredited for their skills, and by setting a clearer progression ladder as they take on more responsibilities.
Such efforts could help blue-collar workers earn more as professionals, he said.
On this, Mr Choo proposed that the Government progressively stop cheaper, foreign labour from taking up semi-skilled jobs such as carpentry.
Although such a move would be unpopular as it would require paying more for labour, it would provide Singaporeans with more opportunities in such industries and help to narrow the wage gap with white-collar workers, he said.
He also suggested that the various industries set up their own professional bodies in the form of guilds to decide on the skills and training that their professions need, rather than letting the Government do so.
These guilds could then decide on what other value-added work could command higher prices, and consequently higher wages for workers in their industries.
Dr Sherwin Ignatius Chia, a senior lecturer from the SUSS human resource management programme, said that consumers must also be willing to pay more for the professional services of skilled workers.
However, Dr Michael Heng, the director of recruitment firm People Worldwide, called for a mindset change across society so that experience is recognised over paper qualifications as “experience is the best predictor of future performance”.
WHAT NTUC AND A YOUNG ELECTRICIAN SAY
In response to queries from TODAY, Mr Desmond Choo, the assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, said that the professionalisation of blue-collar jobs is part of the labour movement’s focus on expanding career opportunities for Singaporeans.
The proposal for re-employment support would also give peace of mind to those losing their jobs and wanting to upgrade their skills and look for suitable employment.
Similarly, revamping the SkillsFuture system will ensure that workers can develop new skills, or deepen existing ones to stay relevant and competitive in the labour market, said Mr Choo.
For 22-year-old Amos Chew, the moves by the Government are welcome. Mr Chew is the co-founder of Repairs.sg, a company providing repair, maintenance and installation services to households and businesses.
Mr Chew, a self-taught electrician who graduated with a diploma in marketing from Temasek Polytechnic in 2020, said he would welcome the opportunity for more courses and certification.
“I myself had previously tried to see if I could excel even further in this electrical career and I found it really hard because there was nothing really that clear to follow, and there wasn’t really anything (in terms of courses) that was structured.Self-taught electrician Amos Chew, 22”
“Even if there was, I couldn’t find it,” said Mr Chew, who is not a licensed electrician.
Mr Chew said that he hopes that the move to professionalise blue-collar workers here will encourage more young Singaporeans to join his 10-person strong team and bring “a youthful change” to the industry overall.
“If there were more structured ways for people to get licensing and more experience in this industry, and develop more interest, I would say that it definitely helps us to hire a lot more talented individuals going into the future.”
Related topicsjob retrenchment Lawrence Wong labour market
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