Singapore’s PM Lee Hsien Loong delivered his 2018 May Day Rally speech at D’Marquee in Downtown East on 1 May 2018, anticipating growth for the year to be 1.5-3.5%, “if all goes well”.
He said: “In the last few years, our strategy has been to restructure our economy, to upgrade our workforce and we are helping businesses to transform and adapt. We are helping workers to reskill and retrain, and take on new jobs. We are making our economy more resilient and competitive.”
He went on to take three specific examples of industries which are transforming: transport, banking, and retail and logistics; how technological disruption is playing out, what it means for local businesses and workers. HR and manpower-specific ideas and implications from his speech are shared below.
- PM Lee does not think bus captains will have to worry self-driving vehicles as driverless buses are not expected on the roads anytime soon. Even for MRT trains which are mostly automated, the operators put somebody to be in charge, just in case something goes wrong.
- When buses become self-driving, bus captains will still be needed – it implies they will be able to give better service, to expand their jobs, to look after their passengers and to give their passengers a safer and more reliable ride.
- Bus and train captains will have to adapt, taking the cue from taxi drivers when ride-sharing first came. Most taxi drivers were already smartphone users; they just needed to learn how to use the new apps.
- New services are emerging, such as robo-advisors that use artificial intelligence (AI) to offer financial advice, tailored to consumers needs and circumstances.
- According to PM Lee, MAS has done a lot to make Singapore a popular place for fintech companies and it is creating many new jobs and opportunities – in these last two years, 2,000 Singaporeans have taken up jobs in fintech companies.
- MAS is also working with banks to plan ahead, build their digital capabilities, reskill and redeploy their employees.
- As mobile banking becomes more pervasive, Singapore banks are already trimming back and rationalising their branch networks. It means the banks are going to have to reskill and redeploy the frontline staff – the bank tellers, the counter staff, the call centre agents.
- They are working at it together with MAS, Workforce Singapore and the unions to develop Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs), starting with consumer banking because that is where many of the banks’ staff are.
Retail and logistics
- While earlier delivery used to be done by the post office, technology has transformed this. Sensors can be used to know where the thing is, robotics to manage the warehouse and cloud computing to run the whole operation.
- SNEF is testing new technologies like autonomous vehicles and drones, augmented reality and virtual reality systems. The drones fly around to do stock taking automatically. So you do not have to have a man climb up, climb down, move the ladder, and risk his life.
- “Singapore is short of land and manpower. These new technologies will help overcome constraints, and keep us a step ahead of competitors,” PM Lee stated.
- Retail employees must learn to work with new technologies, pick up new skills in logistics, like supply chain and inventory management. The logistics workers have to understand the retail business, learn new skills there and work with their employers to stay competitive.
So what do these three examples – in transport, banking, and retail and logistics, show? “First of all they show that technology is making our lives better. It is helping us live and work better,” affirmed PM Lee.
“Secondly, it shows that companies have to upgrade to meet changing customer demands, and to compete with one another, not just in Singapore but also abroad, around the world,” adding that, “Thirdly, workers have to adapt, to embrace the change, to pick up new skills and take on better jobs.”