In the Labour Market Advance Release 2Q 2017 report, the impact of economic headwinds is still largely evident, despite an improvement in resident unemployment rate and retrenchments from 1Q 2017. In particular, the outlook for labour market varied considerably across sectors - While opportunities continue to thrive in sectors such as Finance and Insurance, Infocomm & Media, Healthcare, Professional Serves and Wholesale Trade, the same cannot be said for other sectors that are affected by the downturn since early this year.
Uptrend in retrenchment over the years
Retrenchment numbers and unemployment, both which are low as compared to other countries, have been on a worrying uptrend, reflecting a deeper, structural economic reform and a permanent shift in the skillsets and job requirements.
Table 1 - Summary Table, Retrenchment - Ministry of Manpower
Shortage of skills, not jobs
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say points out that the underlying factor of widening jobs-skills mismatch is the attributing cause for the growing unemployment numbers in the maturing economy. To resolve this problem necessitates a two prong strategy to assist businesses through the economic transition, and also to help Singaporeans to adapt to new skillset needs and provide the avenue to enable retraining of the workforce for the new economy.
Displacement of workers a world-wide phenomenon
Job creation in areas where workers are displaced is a common challenge faced by world leaders, said Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam at the FutureChina Global Forum. Unlike the previous shift in the economy in the 1990s, the displaced workers are older in age and faced the additional adverse impact of job destruction in an economic downturn.
Technology replacing the jobs of old
Additionally, the displacement of workers were caused by disruptions across different sectors - The cost economies of human labor is rapidly eroded with the advent of technological innovations that could achieve the same in lesser time and costs.
What technology takes, technology gives too
Arguably, there are two sides to the pivotal role that technology plays in the economic transition - The drive for continuous technological disruption across industry verticals concurrently create new jobs with new skillset requirements, such as data analytics, social media marketing, cyber security, etc. The key challenge here, is then how businesses and jobseekers can adapt to the sweeping changes, and stay relevant in the future economy.
Industry Transformation [Businesses]
To tackle the deep-rooted structural reform, the government of Singapore has embarked on spearheading industry transformation across 23 different sectors that account for over 80% of the economy through the progressive launch of Industry Transformation Maps (ITM). The ITMs are slated to help industries with growth prospects seize global opportunities, by helping them upgrade their capabilities, while at the same time, provide tailored examples of productivity growth through the use of technology and innovative business strategies for industries facing challenges in restructuring.
Professional Conversion Programme [PMETs]
Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs) are career conversion programmes targeted at Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs), including mid-career switchers, to undergo skills conversion and move into new occupations or sectors that have good prospects and opportunities for progression.
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