Bleak jobs outlook will persist, Government warns

September 27, 201610:29 am307 views
Bleak jobs outlook will persist, Government warns
photo: Reuters file photo

Warning that the bleak jobs situation will persist in the coming months — with the prospect of more lay-offs on the horizon — Government leaders on Friday (Sept 16) assured workers that efforts to redesign jobs and match displaced employees to growth sectors will intensify.

“Looking at the picture in the next six to 12 months, we’ll continue to face some of these challenges, where there are both cyclical slowdown forces across the world and there are also some structural issues that are caused by disruption,” said labour chief Chan Chun Sing. He pointed out that the key is to train and prepare workers who are at risk of being let go, even before they are given the pink slip, so that they are equipped to take on new jobs.

“It’s very difficult to encourage (people) to … be prepared for the day that you might be displaced. And therefore, before that day comes, we must go and upgrade ourselves and acquire the new skills,” said Mr Chan, who was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a human resource forum organised by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

To this end, making information available to workers on where future job openings might lie was crucial, so people can “make informed choices”, he said.

The NTUC, working closely with government agencies such as the Economic Development Board, will strengthen the system to identify current job vacancies as well as opportunities that may not be on the market yet, but may be coming on-stream on account of investments made by businesses. The intention is to shorten the time workers take to re-enter the job market, because the “longer they stay out of the job market the harder it is for them to get back (in)”, Mr Chan said.

Tampines Member of Parliament Desmond Choo, who is also NTUC’s youth development director, said that efforts to identify industries and jobs at risk are ongoing but the labour movement was going to ramp them up. He has seen workers from sectors, such as electronics, undertaking courses of their own accord or those prescribed by the Employment and Employability Institute. Some, he said, had switched to growth sectors, such as 3D printing.

“In … any type of change, there will be the early adopters and (those) who catch up subsequently. So our job is to (let them) know what’s going to happen,” he said.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Manpower released its latest labour market report, which makes for grim reading: Layoffs for the first half of the year reached more than 9,500, the highest since 2009. Also, for the first time since June 2012, there were more job-seekers than the number of job vacancies available, with the number of openings falling for the sixth straight quarter.

DBS Bank, in its employment outlook for Singapore released on Friday, said there was a good chance that redundancies would total about 18,900 this year — outstripping last year’s figure of 15,580, which was the highest since 2009. In 2009, the number of redundancies hit more than 23,000. “Plainly, the labour market will continue to soften, as growth momentum is expected to weaken further,” DBS said.

Speaking at a job fair organised by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA), Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say acknowledged Singaporeans’ job concerns amid the global economic slowdown. He was “equally — if not more — concerned”, he said. But he stressed that the situation was not “helpless”, compared with the 2009 global downturn. “We’re in a much healthier state than (we were in) 2009, when we went through the global financial crisis … In 2009, we were trying to save every existing job,” Mr Lim said. “This time, we’re trying to transform every existing job so that we can have better jobs.” Still, he warned that the pace of retrenchment may speed up, as industries across all sectors are restructured.

On the job situation, Mr Chan reiterated that it was not a “numbers game”. “(It’s) not about trying to just get enough jobs for enough people. It’s about getting enough good jobs for Singaporeans to meet their aspirations,” he said.

Mr Chan said that existing efforts to help displaced workers will be strengthened, including the WDA’s Place and Train Programme, where trainees are hired by an employer before they begin training to acquire the skills needed for the job.

On Friday, the WDA announced that it is piloting a virtual job fair, where employers and jobseekers link up online at Visitors can chat with employers and career coaches online to learn more about the available jobs.

The two-week fair — held between Sept 7 and Sept 21 — has over 50 employers from the infocomm technology, aerospace, biomedical sciences and professional services sectors. About 500 jobs — mainly for Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians — are on offer, and so far, about 1,000 applications have been received.

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