‘Encouraging’ response to scheme for SMEs to cut foreign manpower reliance: MOM

November 4, 20166:36 pm310 views
‘Encouraging’ response to scheme for SMEs to cut foreign manpower reliance: MOM
The skyline of Singapore's financial district. (File photo: AFP/Simin Wang)

More than 1,400 firms from sectors like food services, retail, construction and manufacturing have benefited from a Government programme meant to help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) reduce their reliance on foreign manpower, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said on Thursday (Nov 3).

This update comes a year after the Lean Enterprise Development (LED) programme was introduced in October 2015.

The scheme, which is being piloted for a two-year period, aims to give SMEs some flexibility in deploying foreign manpower as businesses carry out plans to be more innovative and productive.

For example, if a company pursues a new method of production that cuts down the number of lower-skilled foreign workers employed, they can still retain the same number of higher-skilled foreigners who may be needed to manage production even if the regulatory ratio specifying the proportion of foreigners among employees has changed.

Speaking to about 600 employers at the inaugural LED symposium on Thursday, Mr Lim said the responses from SMEs in the past year have been “constructive and encouraging”.

The Minister pointed out that both local and foreign workforces in Singapore have seen slower growth in recent years, and the challenge was to ensure the sharp drop in manpower growth would not “become the bottleneck in the future growth of our economy” as well as businesses.

IMPERATIVE FOR SMES TO LEARN FROM OTHER SMES: TEO SER LUCK

In a joint press release on Thursday, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Workforce Singapore, SPRING Singapore and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said that to speed up the transformation among SMEs, they had appointed an additional 18 “LED multipliers”. These are organisations tasked with driving adoption of manpower-lean solutions by reaching out to SMEs and guiding them through their transformation plans, they explained.

“To cope in a fast-changing business landscape, SMEs must take advantage of technological change to expand the business and improve processes,” they said, adding that such companies should also be open to new ideas that reap economies of scale.

For example, restaurants could share a central processing unit to optimise the usage of equipment, the agencies suggested.

Minister of State for Manpower Teo Ser Luck also encouraged cooperation between SMEs, saying that it was “imperative for SMEs to learn from other SMEs” and continue to grow their businesses in a manpower-lean and cost-effective manner whether together or alone.

“MOM will continue to work with the various LED taskforce agencies to help SMEs accelerate the transformation and growth of SMEs to be manpower lean and competitive while strengthening the Singaporean core,” he added.

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