HR’s big headache acknowledged in Singapore’s Budget

by Ben Abbott24 Feb 2015
The Singaporean government has listened to business complaints about the tight labour market, with a conciliatory measure announced in the Budget yesterday.
Having previously planned a round of levy hikes for S-pass and Work Permit holders this year, the government has announced a deferral in every sector.
Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said yesterday the “significant slowdown” in the economy gave the government time to adjust the pace of its tightening measures relating to the hiring of workers abroad.
He said this will give companies more time to adapt to the “new normal” of a permanently tight labour market, where it is difficult to find and hire Singaporean employees at the same time as foreign hiring is constrained.
However, Tharman made clear the government was delaying - not changing - its policy on tightening the intake of foreign talent.
"Let me affirm unequivocally that while we are adjusting the pace of our foreign worker measures, we are not changing direction," Tharman said.
The Budget delivered the HR profession with a compelling vision for Singapore’s workforce future, based on a highly skilled workforce and boosting innovation.
"We must reach our next frontier as an economy, with firms driven by innovation and higher incomes coming from deep skills and expertise in every job,” Tharman said in his Budget delivery speech.
The government announced measures designed to help develop workforce skills for the future and allow individuals to embrace lifelong skill development.
“We must become a meritocracy of skills, not a hierarchy of grades earned early in life,” Tharman said.
Singaporeans aged 25 and above will now have a SkillsFuture Credit Account for work-skills related courses, with an initial credit of S$500 to rise over time.
Mid-career Singaporeans aged 40 and above will be able to access higher education and training subsidies of at least 90% for Ministry of Education and Workforce Development Agency courses.
A new SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme will pair polytechnic and ITE graduates with employers for on-the-job training and mentorship, as well as provide funding support for both trainees and employers.
Meanwhile, the government plans to develop sectoral manpower plans through industry collaboration involving employers, trainers, unions and associations.
Skill mastery will also be encouraged with SkillsFuture Study Awards, SkillsFuture Fellowships and the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative.
As part of other measures designed to help businesses manage their costs, the government announced that the Temporary Employment Credit - which offsets employers’ CPF contributions - will be extended and enhanced.
Singapore’s Wage Credit Scheme will also be extended through 2016 and 2017, as the government gradually winds back its Transition Support Package. The government will co-fund 20% of wage increases given to Singaporean workers earning a gross monthly wage of S$4,000 and below in the next two years.


  • by Chandru Pingali 24/2/2015 9:48:20 AM

    Some good steps forward. However it doesn't fundamentally address the issue of job & role mapping and employability. If there are 100-150,000 Singaporeans out there looking for jobs and if there are 500000 jobs that seem to be available in Spore, is there an active market place that addresses the following. How many Sporeans are recruited and what is the conversion ratio. Why do we need to invest BEFORE the job role. Always use the funds for reskilling once a job offer is made. Today employers dont know what skill sets are available across Singapore. Neither the job seekers aware of why dont seem to get a response after applying for several roles!! So who is getting those jobs ??

    STEPS :
    1. Interview and Assess the skills of ALL the 150,000 talent, seeking jobs. Its a project by itself with 500-1000 trained interviewers contributing one/two week time to "volunteer" and evaluate all skills. Or solicit the help of semi retired professionals who will be delighted . It will take 2-3 months to complete but will ensure that employers will be made AWARE of what skill sets are available.
    2. Upload the skills available on a jobsite for all employers to review. Host monthly job fairs face to face.
    3. Ensure that they interview at least 5 candidates per role as part of mandatory and authentic attempt to recruit Singaporeans
    4. Any reskilling/upskilling efforts required by employers should be reimbursed at 60-70 rate
    5. Ensure anxillary support systems are installed to help onboarding succeeds and both employer and employee find mutual benefit. This is done by enrolling as many coaches, mentors to be part of support system.
    6. Employees who work for a minimum of one year in the company should be guaranteed a one time bonus of one month pay.. This encourages behaviour of staying back than moonlighting ( common practice in some countries where there is talent crunch)
    7. Reward employers who are taking Sporeans with one year rebate of CPF or similar recognition
    8. Review progress every six months on different metrics

    Separately , reflect on changing the content of two years in National Service (NS) to include ONE year of Apprenticeship ( work experience) with ONE employer. Its mandatory without which the student doesnt get NS certificate. Likewise for college diploma certificates-- mandatory one year working before awarding diploma. Suddenly there is a large workforce made available who will get experience and employers get productivity. NS will not be compromised as one year can be made more rigourous and second year is productivity for the country. a WIN WIN. Call it Apprentice Act or Productivity Act or what ever best suits the country needs. Surely the youth will earn money, experience and appreciate the change.

    These suggestions are workable. Engage some of us who have been practitioners for long in building organisations and willing to invest time to create a policy and process for the government and make it work. Its certainly not rocket science. Some times i wonder if there is openness to innovate and move with speed .. I believe we can do a lot better as a country if we leverage the expertise to think outside the box !!

Most Read