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Reality check on unemployment in Singapore

Tan Chuan-Jin: Don’t get complacent about jobs

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Singapore’s Manpower Minister has warned Singaporeans about getting complacent about jobs and unemployment, as it could create a less competitive environment.

In a blog post about his experience at the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting in Melbourne, Tan Chuan-Jin stressed Singapore cannot afford to let a sense of entitlement creep within the workforce, lest this leads to high youth unemployment – an issue that his G20 counterparts are facing.

“Perhaps we are complacent about unemployment, because of our enviable position of having 3% unemployment, which is among the lowest globally…  Most of our university, polytechnic, and ITE graduates find a job within six months,” he wrote.

“If we are not careful, we will imbue the wrong sense of entitlement in our workforce, and this can undo the position that we now enjoy. If we become uncompetitive and inward looking, perhaps at future meetings, I would be joining my other international colleagues in lamenting stagnant wages and high youth unemployment.”

ALSO READ: Tan Chuan-Jin: Unemployment a “low and stable” 3%

He also went into detail about his concerns around Singaporeans’ attitude for work.

He cited Senior Minister of State Heng Chee How’s sharings in Parliament last week about the need for good job to be continually created in Singapore, saying “should companies find that Singaporeans lack the attitude and competencies needed for the job, they will have less reason to bring good jobs to Singapore”.

He also shared two stories to make his point. The first was about the owner of a foreign IT setup who was thinking about shifting his operations to Vietnam, because he couldn’t find the right talent locally. This wasn’t because of wages or because of a lack of talent – it was because people were not interested once hearing the job required shift work.

Similarly, a recruiter Tan met recently told him the problem in Singapore isn’t for want of jobs, but that “demands and expectations were high and sometimes excessively so.”

“He was somewhat concerned about the impact on competitiveness and recognised that it was not a given that jobs are always going to be available,” Tan wrote.

He said those of us in Singapore face the same “pressures and economic realities” as everyone else, and although these have been managed well, there’s a need to remain realistic.

“Expectations will always be there, but we also need to be realistic.”

Image: Shutterstock

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