Work — what we do for a living — always changes.
This happens sometimes by choice, sometimes when automation occurs. There’re jobs now that didn’t exist a few years ago too — the calls for Work from Home Facilitators does drive these points home.
How can we meet these challenges for the future of work, the security of work and the reward of work?
Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong has some answers.
“We will spare no effort to ensure that the labour market of the future offers benefits, opportunity and security for all,” he promised at the Institute of Policy Studies’s flagship Singapore Perspectives conference this week (Jan 16).
Going forward, this what the Party leadership sees:
The march of progress does help fill specific job openings which need filling. Plus, who knows what further changes will occur from it? That Work from Home Facilitator post might seem too 2020s when the 2050s roll around.
“And the thing is that not everyone will be able to benefit equally from these technological changes,” shared DPM Wong about the future of work.
“Those with the right skills will be able to seize the opportunities, and enjoy tremendous rewards. While those who are unable to adjust and adapt will certainly face more challenges.”
So, older, mid-career workers how? (That’s a category which’ll in the 2050s include even the littlest Singaporeans living now.)
And then there’s the CPF which provides a decent standard of living during one’s retirement. The PAP Government boosted it recently, with efforts like Workfare and the Progressive Wage Model for lower-wage workers and Silver Support for less-fortunate retirees. This is the security of work.
“But with more disruptions and volatility expected in our economy and our lives, Singaporeans will find it harder to consistently build up their CPF savings,” said DPM Wong.
There’s also a challenge around the reward of work, specifically how we can make these rewards fairer and more equitable.
Income inequality is down. But starkly different wage gaps can still lead to problematic outcomes, not least when people shun certain fields of work.
“And all this compounds the sense of a continuous rat race and paper chase, adding to the worries and anxieties of Singaporeans,” observed the DPM.
These challenges can tug at Singapore’s hard-forged social compact when left unattended.
The PAP Government has strategies for addressing these concerns.
They include increasing investments in skills and people as well as bolstering retirement security and assuring Singaporeans that their basic retirement needs will be met.
And investing in quality jobs and viable professions across the board too.
Strategy 1: Increasing investments in skills and people
This is an ongoing journey and not an easy one.
Acknowledging that unsupportive employers and family commitments can deter adult workers from upskilling and improving their pathways to better jobs, DPM Wong stressed that these must still form a core pillar of Singapore’s refreshed social compact.
And the DPM mentioned that employers need to step up and invest in training their workers, that skills training programmes need more innovation (including work-based learning) and improve labour market information so that the right workers get the right jobs.
“These are major changes which we are thinking about to take our SkillsFuture ecosystem to the next level, and to strengthen our system of lifelong learning and training,” he said.
Strategy 2: Retirement adequacy
“Ultimately, we want to be able to assure all Singaporeans: as long as you work and contribute consistently to your CPF, you will be able to meet your basic retirement needs,” said DPM Wong.
“And for those who do not have the ability to work, or the runway to work and save through CPF, we will find ways to take care of you.”
Sounds good, frankly. But how?
By meeting the needs of different cohorts, DPM Wong explained.
So the oldest Singaporeans are getting a boost from substantial Pioneer Generation and Merdeka Generation packages now; the PAP Government will review how to take care of their needs.
Another review too, for those in their 50s and early 60s; the Government knows that they have a limited runway to work, save and benefit from the CPF system.
The enhanced skills training system, as well as the Workfare and Progressive Wage Model, will help Singapore’s younger workers.
More vulnerable workers are included too.
“They are platform workers or gig workers — we have accepted the recommendations from the Advisory Committee last year, and we are studying how to implement the recommendations and help these workers save for their retirement,” said DPM Wong.
“And there will be other groups like persons with disabilities and caregivers — and again we will see how best to work with their families and community organisations to better support them.”
Strategy 3: Quality jobs and viable professions
The Progressive Wage Model will expand, as the PAP Government pushes to recognise more types of jobs as “good jobs”.
Salary increases and career progression are effective here.
“We have since put in place the PWM for lift technicians. Starting salaries are now 40 per cent higher (at S$1,850 in 2022), and set to increase further over the next few years,” said DPM Wong, talking about attracting trained lift technicians back into the industry.
“But it is not just about the starting salary. Once you enter industry, you can also look forward to a progression to supervisory and specialist roles — with greater responsibility and higher pay to match your expanded responsibilities.”
So the Government supports improving job prospects and better career progression across all fields.
“This is not just about reshaping the labour market; it is also about shifting our perceptions towards work, and embracing a broader definition of what counts as ‘good jobs’; for us to recognise skills and competencies rather than be overly focused on paper qualifications,” said DPM Wong.
Tripartite partnership for the social compact
One Party tradition will remain constant for the future despite all these challenges and strategies — tripartite partnership.
“Much of what I’ve shared today and the changes we will need to make will require the buy-in from everyone in society — just as it has been throughout our nation’s history,” said DPM Wong.
That means the Government, unions, and employers working together. This ensures that growth and prosperity is shared by everyone in Singapore.
“As we continue with our Forward Singapore deliberations which are ongoing, I invite all of you to partner with the Government in co-creating our new social compact and shaping our future together,” said DPM Wong.
“We will ensure that Singapore remains a place where everyone can progress throughout life; contribute meaningfully to society; and forge fulfilling and dignified lives, with greater assurance for today and tomorrow.”
Cover photo credit: NTUC Singapore, Facebook