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Josephine Teo: S’pore companies must improve job quality & attract skilled S’poreans, not depend on foreign labour

She highlighted the examples of several hotels who have transformed their businesses in responses to leaner manpower.

Joshua Lee | February 26, 06:36 pm

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The fallout from the Covid-19 outbreak has been particularly devastating to businesses in Singapore.

The government has come up with a S$4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package to help businesses with local employees tide through the downturn.

Companies will get a eight per cent cash grant based on the gross monthly wages of their local employees for three months. The government will also co-pay a portion of wage increases in 2019 and 2020, so as to lessen the burden on companies.

Government’s priority is to preserve local employment

However, the government has not waived foreign worker levies for businesses which employ them, because it would not benefit the “many employers who only have local employees,” said Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo in Parliament today (Feb. 26) during her Budget debate speech.

The government’s priority is to preserve local employment, she said, adding that reducing or waiving the foreign worker levy will also negate companies efforts to be less reliant on foreign manpower in the longer term.

In addition, it was announced during Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s Budget speech that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will be cutting S Pass quotas in the Construction, Marine and Process sectors for the second year in a row, so as to reduce Singapore’s dependence on foreign labour.

S’pore govt to reduce foreign worker S Pass sub-dependency ratio ceilings for 2nd year in a row

According to Teo, some are troubled because they lament the difficulty of attracting locals to these sectors. In response, Teo said that the quota cuts for the Construction, Marine and Process sectors are at the S Pass levels.

These S Pass jobs are skilled jobs which can be performed by polytechnic graduates and ITE upgraders.

She then called on companies to improve their job quality to attract skilled Singaporeans instead of depending on foreign labour.

“Can we be so sure that foreigners will always accept the work conditions our own people find unappealing, or that they will not find better jobs back home in time to come?”

Hotels which have improved their businesses in responses to leaner manpower

Teo gave an example of how the hotel industry has risen to the occasion to “improve job quality and become more manpower lean”.

Over at Copthorne King’s Singapore, housekeepers no longer waste time knocking on doors to figure out which room should be cleaned. Instead, they are notified through a mobile app.

A new bedding and vacuuming system has managed cut down on time spent tidying.

Guests to Yotel at Orchard can check-in by themselves and have items delivered by a “friendly robot”.

Andaz Hotel no longer hires a team of confectioners, but supplies customers with confectionary from Tiong Bahru Bakery and brands it as a “heritage experience”.

Businesses have saved jobs during Covid-19 slump

Teo also commended businesses which heeded the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment during the economic slump to save jobs.

According to her, some have asked their workers to clear annual leave or time off while others have explored shorter work weeks.

Some have even taken the opportunity to send their workers for skills upgrading, citing the mature workers of NTUC Health Co-operative who have used technology to conduct virtual discussions.

“NTUC Health Co-operative shared with me that this virus situation has sparked a viral interest amongst workers in leveraging technology for alternative work arrangements.”

As Teo ended her speech, she mentioned the Skillsfuture Mid-career Support Package and the Senior Worker Support Package which will elaborated on during the Committee of Supply debates in the following week.

She will also be touching on support for self-employed persons. Added Teo:

“This is our commitment to Singaporeans in their 40s and 50s – that they too, can have an extended runway; and that everyone, at every stage of life, will get the fair chance they deserve to grow and progress at work.”

Top image via Josephine Teo/Facebook.

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