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     FrontPage Edition: Sat 3 Dec 2005

Significant trends in the Singapore labour market

Source: www.gov.sg

SPEECH BY MR THARMAN SHANMUGARATNAM, MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, AT THE 46TH ANNIVERSARY DINNER AND DANCE OF THE SINGAPORE MANUAL & MERCANTILE WORKERS¡¯ UNION

An Excerpt

"In fact, this year will mark the strongest job creation since the boom year of 2000. Amidst these favourable developments, let me touch on three significant trends that are taking place in the labour market.
"These are trends that will be with us for several years to come. They are long term trends, not just a short term happening.
"First is the shift towards more services sector jobs, which is also where the SMMWU draws most of its members.
"While manufacturing employment has remained flat since 1990, that in services has increased by almost 70% and has been the key driver of employment creation for the economy.
"Today, services make up seven out of every ten jobs, compared to six out of ten jobs in 1990. In particular, employment within the financial and business services sector has more than doubled since 1990.
"The increased reliance on services jobs is not unique to Singapore. Other advanced economies are also experiencing this trend. It is not a mark of a declining economy when this happens...
"Another reason why the shift to services is not fundamentally worrying for our future growth is that there are big opportunities for productivity improvements in services...
"A second major shift in our labour market is the shift towards more complex and higher-skilled jobs in the labour market. While lower-skilled workers have also benefited from the recent strength in the job market, we are seeing the biggest increase in demand for people with higher skills and ability to do more complex tasks.
"The shift towards higher skills is not simply about demand for higher qualifications. It is a shift in demand towards people who can do more complex and challenging tasks on the job, across the whole spectrum of work ¨C on the production line, in retail, in finance and auditing, in IT and engineering jobs, in marketing, and in management - and across the range of qualifications that people have.
"It is a shift in demand that affects all of us. There is greater demand for people who have the skills, judgement and experience to deal with new situations where there are no rule books to follow. For example, dealing with new customer demands, new technologies, new ways of organising the supply chain...
"These two trends ¨C towards services-oriented jobs, and towards more complex work - are going to be with us for many years.
"But there is also a third, important trend, and that is that people will have to change jobs more often in their lifetimes.
"While higher-skilled workers are in greater demand, they will not be spared the effects of the accelerated pace of restructuring in a more competitive global environment.
"This is in fact partly professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) comprising more than three out of every ten workers retrenched in the first half of this year, compared to just one in ten about 15 years ago, or two per ten retrenched workers in the late 90s...
"Our aim therefore can never be to preserve jobs but to grow jobs. Our aim should be to provide lifetime employment opportunities - not giving everyone the same job for life, but giving everyone the opportunity to find a good job at any point in their working lives..."

Full Text of Speech

Source: www.gov.sg Press Release 2 Dec 2005

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