Singapore remains open, but firms should focus on Singaporean core: Tan See Leng

WHILE Singapore remains open to global talent and investment, companies operating here should put more effort into strengthening their Singaporean core, new political office-holder Tan See Leng said in his first speech in Parliament on Monday, giving an overview of efforts to help both workers and businesses.

Dr Tan, who is Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for both Manpower and Trade and Industry, said: "We will give Singaporean jobseekers a stronger boost by working with businesses to give more serious consideration to Singaporeans when hiring, especially those who are willing to adjust their expectations and adapt."

"We will also scale up our proactive efforts to increase our Singaporean jobseekers' chances of landing a suitable job," he added, but appealed to jobseekers themselves to be realistic in their expectations, given the economic climate.

Dr Tan reiterated the government's commitment to ensure that the pandemic does not result in a "lost generation" of workers, highlighting two groups in particular: young graduates and mature workers.

Though some young graduates may find it hard to secure jobs in this crisis, the government will help them build their professional skills, experience and networks through the SGUnited Traineeships Programme, and encourage young entrepreneurs, said Dr Tan.

As for mature workers, the reality is that many sectors and jobs that have been worst-hit by the crisis may take a long time to recover, or never do so, he said.

The government has thus designed opportunities for mid-career workers to train for different jobs, in the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, and is making sure that employers consider them fairly.

For businesses, Dr Tan laid out the government's differentiated approaches for three groups of businesses.

Those that are seeing new opportunities will get help to grow, including those in sectors such as information and communications technology, biopharma, agritech, advanced manufacturing and low-carbon technologies. The government will create a more attractive environment for these businesses to both compete and co-operate, he said.

For businesses that are facing lower demand now but will eventually recover, the government will help them preserve capabilities and be in a good position to seize recovery.

Those in industries that have permanently changed will get help to reinvent themselves and pivot into new markets and products. Companies in areas such as mass market tourism and social entertainment are already thinking along these lines, he added.

Apart from the Singaporean core in manpower, the aim is to develop a strong Singapore core of enterprises that can grow and compete internationally, and offer quality job opportunities, he said.