New Paper chided: “Can’t protect workers at cost of progress: Minister”?

worker

The Government keeps saying that it will protect Singaporean workers, but the policies and statistics seem to suggest otherwise!

I refer to the article “Minister: Businesses and govts must help staff adapt to automation, digitisation” (Straits Times, Sep 17).

New Paper chided for “the headline: Can’t protect workers at cost of progress: Minister”?

It states that “Correction note: This article previously appeared under the headline: Can’t protect workers at cost of progress: Minister

TNP headline gave wrong impression of Minister Teo’s remarks

MS SOFFY HARIYANTI
DIRECTOR OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS
MINISTRY OF MANPOWER

The New Paper’s headline, “We can’t protect workers at the cost of progress” (Sept 16), on Minister Josephine Teo’s closing remarks at the Milken Institute Asia Summit, was grossly inaccurate.

It gave the impression that the Government is taking a hands-off approach towards Singaporean workers affected by technological disruptions.

This is not true. What Minister Teo said was that Singapore’s strategies to prepare our businesses and people for jobs of the future have to evolve.

Government is mindful that businesses cannot win with technology and innovation at the expense of our workers, nor will it be possible for workers to be protected from technological disruptions in the economy.

To help both workers and businesses adapt and transform, the Government has put in place a range of support measures.

Minister Teo’s remarks were to assure workers that the Government, businesses and workers must work together to achieve success in the future.

The New Paper’s headline ignores the Government’s call for solidarity among businesses and workers to thrive in our future economy.

Govt’s labour policy contributed to taxi drivers’ woes?

As to “Mrs Teo cited the experience of taxi drivers who may have come under pressure as ride-hailing apps take off.

She said: “This is where governments potentially could get caught.

“On the one hand, you have people who are affected by the change, and they say, ‘We want protection from the change’.

“And yet, at the same time, you know that unless you are able to allow the businesses to develop new models of operating that are more efficient and will exploit their potential to the fullest, you do not actually have the opportunity to create better-paying jobs for the people, your citizens.”

Under such conditions, said Mrs Teo, governments have a “huge responsibility to their citizens”, to help them adapt to their change” – it may arguably be a change in the Government’s labour policy for drivers that may have contributed to the woes of taxi drivers, because taxi drivers must and have always been Singaporeans age 30 and above, whereas the Government has allowed Uber to have drivers who are Singaporeans or permanent residents (PRs).

From S’porean drivers to citizens/PRs drivers (foreigners also?)?

In this regard – Uber’s web site may be a bit confusing because it says

“Minimum requirements

Driving with Uber is for everyone, even if you don’t have a car. Here are our minimum requirements:

  • Singaporean / PR
  • Minimum 2 years of driving experience

Required documents

To get activated, all you need to upload are the following documents:

  • NRIC
  • Driving License
  • PDVL / TDVL / In-Principle Approval (IPA) Letter / Letter of Approval (LOA) / Approval to Drive (ATD) Letter
  • Letter of Employment (Only for PR & Foreigners)
  • Certificate of Conduct (Only for Foreigners)”- So, if you read the above – why does the “Required documents” say “Letter of Employment (Only for PR & Foreigners)
  • Certificate of Conduct (Only for Foreigners)” – if the

    “minimum requirements:

    • (are) Singaporean / PR”?

LTA: Foreigners can be drivers?

In this regard – according to the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) web site – “Applicants who are not Singapore citizens, such as Singapore Permanent Residents and Foreign Work Pass holders, must be employees of a company providing chauffeured services in order to be eligible for the PDVL.

As for Singapore citizens, the current policy is that if they are not driving as employees, they need to be registered owners of a chauffeured services business. This will no longer be required. Singapore Citizens can apply for a PDVL as a self-employed driver”.

With regard to “This could involve making sure that skills training and “social security” can adequately meet the needs of workers.

It could also involve building “a sense of solidarity” between industry and labour so both are invested in change and feel that they share a stake in the future.

“The only way in which we can make forward movement is if both businesses and people are prepared to say that we will win together because we are in this together,” said Mrs Teo.

Businesses and governments must work together to allay workers’ concerns and make sure employees are able to take up the new jobs that will be created from automation and digitisation.

“The catch is that the prospect of a net addition of jobs is comforting only to the extent that the workers involved can find ways to access the new opportunities,” she said.

Labour statistics indicate otherwise?

“Otherwise, it is a frightening thought, and you could have a very unhappy situation where unemployment is rising and yet, at the same time, businesses are growing below potential” – how to we reconcile such rhetoric and assurances to help Singaporean workers when the labour statistics seem to indicate otherwise?

For example, the media reported “By June 2017, 4,000 more Singaporean and permanent resident workers were employed than at the end of last year – the first time in three years that local employment grew during those months, the Manpower Ministry (MOM) said in a statement” (“Labour market shows a slight uptick in the first half of 2017: Manpower Ministry” (Straits Times, Sep 14).

31,050 new PRs and 22,102 new citizens a year?

Last year, we granted 31,050 new PRs and 22,102 new citizens.

Highest in 13 years?

These were at seven and 13-year highs, respectively.

In other words – last year’s figures were the highest in the last 13 years for new citizensgranted.

How many new PRs & citizens granted?

If the rate of granting new PRs and new citizens in the first half of this year is about the same as last year’s – we may have granted about 15,525 new PRS (31,050 divided by 2) and 11,051 (22,102 divided by 2) new citizens up till June.

How many of the “jobs growth” to S’poreans?

If this is the case (estimate) – how many of the 4,000 locals’  employment growth in the first half of this year went to Singaporeans?

If 26% of new PRs working = 0 jobs growth to S’poreans? 

To illustrate this with an example – if just 26 per cent of the estimated 15,525 new PRs granted were formerly foreigners with jobs – about 4,037 (15,525 × 26%) – perhaps none of the 4,000 locals’ employment growth went to Singaporeans.

If 60% of new PRs working – unemployment rate up not down?

Similarly, for the purpose of illustration – if 60 per cent  of the 15,525 new PRs granted were formerly foreigners with jobs – about 9,315 (15,525 x 60%) – perhaps this may have contributed to the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents combined (locals) decreasing to 3.1 per cent in June, down from 3.2 per cent in March.

After all, a 0.1 per cent drop in the residents’ unemployment rate is only about 2,200 resident workers.

In other words, if not for the estimated number of new PRs granted who are working – the resident unemployment rate may not have gone down.

Also, as to PRs and Singaporeans – it may be interesting to note that from 2004 to 2016 – we granted 555,659 and 228,840 new PRs and new citizens, respectively.

With regard to jobs – from 2006 to 2016 – the employment growth for locals and foreigners was 376,800 and 701,900, respectively.

How many of the 376,800 locals’ jobs were S’poreans?

So, how many of the “locals” (PRs and citizens) employment growth of 376,800 went to Singaporeans, since 467,659 new PRs and 208,840 new citizens were granted in the same period from 2006 to 2016?

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong
Leong Sze Hian has served as president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), invited to speak more than 200 times in over 30 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of Indonesia and Brunei. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.