Ensuring fairness at work for all Singaporeans

15 Jan 2020 2 min read


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10 years ago, as a labour MP still on the backbench, I had called on the government to ensure that as our economy recovered from the 2008 global financial crisis, most of the jobs created would go to Singaporeans.

Fast forward to the present. Citizen employment has grown steadily and more Singaporeans have moved into PMET jobs. However, the Singapore economy is facing headwinds, or what I would describe as persistent showers with pockets of sunshine. Even in sectors that are more affected by economic uncertainties, there are companies still expanding and hiring. These are opportunities we should not pass up on.

The PAP Government understands that you want fair chances for employment and to progress in your career. We have been building up many programmes that help our people keep their skills current and acquire skills to move into new occupations or industries. Our Adapt and Grow initiative now helps about 30,000 Singaporeans each year.

But to meet Singaporeans’ aspirations for quality jobs, skills upgrading is necessary but insufficient. We must also attract good companies to grow their businesses here. Our economy today requires 3.4 million people to support the entire breadth and depth of activities. With a local workforce of just 2.3 million, clearly, we have a surplus of jobs and have to supplement with people from the rest of the world.

By remaining open and providing businesses with the access to global expertise, we have anchored many good jobs for Singaporeans that could have gone elsewhere. In most sectors, locals comprise 70 to 80 per cent of all professionals, managers and executives.

Nevertheless, everywhere in the world, there is bound to be anxieties about being overtaken by “outsiders”. How do we ensure fairness at the workplace, so that it can be a solid foundation for more progressive workplace practices?

For a start, the Government has strengthened the Fair Consideration Framework (FCF) in January 2020. Having operated the FCF for about five years, we have gained good experience. It is timely now to turn our attention to weed out a minority of employers who continued to breach fair hiring requirements.

The Government has raised penalties across the board for all forms of discrimination, including age, race, nationality and mental health conditions. Discriminatory employers will be disallowed from hiring new foreign workers or renew existing ones for a minimum of 12 months to a maximum of 24 months. The Government will also prosecute employers and key personnel who make false declarations on fair consideration. The aim is to have greater deterrence against workplace discrimination, so that fellow Singaporeans get fair opportunities to progress at work.

At the same time, we will continue to help companies push through with transformation with our range of support schemes. For workers, we will help them to reskill and upskill, so that they can take up emerging jobs or make career transitions.

The pursuit of fairness at the workplace is a journey without end. We must and will always strive to do better for Singaporeans.

Happy New Year!

Mrs Josephine Teo
Chairperson for Women’s Wing
People’s Action Party
15 January 2020