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Shortage of skills, not jobs, a key threat to Singapore

SINGAPORE — Should Singapore be hit by higher unemployment, it will be because of a shortage of skills — as a result of the widening jobs-skills mismatch — and not a lack of jobs.

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SINGAPORE — Should Singapore be hit by higher unemployment, it will be because of a shortage of skills — as a result of the widening jobs-skills mismatch — and not a lack of jobs.

But the Government is determined not to let it come to pass, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said yesterday. “We are not going to allow this to happen to us,” he said.

The prospect of unemployment creeping up as the economy matures has made the headlines in recent weeks, with both Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Lim previously weighing in on the issue.

Yesterday, speaking at Republic Polytechnic’s (RP) graduation ceremony for 4,752 graduates, Mr Lim reiterated that Singapore has embarked on economic transition, involving 23 sectors and covering 80 per cent of the economy.

To succeed in this journey, the Government will have to help businesses transform faster, and Singaporeans adapt better. Otherwise, “the mismatch between jobs and skills will widen as we run faster”, he said.

At the May Day Rally on Monday, Mr Lee said the unemployment rate has climbed to 2.3 per cent because of economic restructuring, but the figure is low compared with other developed countries. To keep Singapore prospering, the Government will help businesses create new jobs, get displaced workers re-employed and train employees to deepen and broaden their skills in their current roles.

Mr Lim reiterated that Singapore has in place major national programmes such as the SkillsFuture movement and the Adapt & Grow initiative, which helps those without work adapt to changing job demands and acquire the necessary skills to find new jobs. “Our commitment to you is to help all our people to keep learning new skills, adapting to new jobs and developing new careers, throughout your lives. As individuals, I hope you will commit to play your part too,” he told the RP graduates.

Mr Lim also noted a growing fear around the world that technology may eventually take over more jobs, making many more workers redundant. While intelligent technology will progressively take over many “jobs of today” that can be done cheaper, better and faster with technology, Mr Lim pointed out that technology will concurrently create many “jobs of tomorrow” — ranging from data analytics and cyber security to robotisation engineering, revenue management and innovation development. Some economies will see net job gains, while others will see net job losses.

“For Singapore, our choice is clear. We want to be among the winners, not losers,” he stressed.

Singapore is determined to be at the forefront of technology exploitation, making better and faster use of innovations ahead of the competition, he said. “This is so that we can create not just more jobs, but better jobs and better careers for all our people, young and old,” he added. Siau Ming En

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