In his May Day message, PM Lee said that the government’s goal has remained “constant” and that is to improve Singaporeans’ lives.
To do that, an important strategy is to develop better workers and create better jobs. “This is the only sustainable way to raise wages,” he said.
Mr Lee said Singapore is undergoing a major transition:
Our economy is upgrading qualitatively, and expanding less quickly than before. Last year we did well: Growth was 4.1 per cent, and wages and household incomes rose broadly. This year we expect to grow 2-4 per cent, which is typical of a maturing economy.
We are strengthening our social safety nets to give Singaporeans more peace of mind. MediShield Life and the expanded Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) will help Singaporeans meet their medical needs. Permanent GST Vouchers will offset daily expenses. Larger education and pre-school subsidies will benefit all families, especially the lower-income. The Pioneer Generation Package will honour and help the seniors who started us on this nation-building journey.
To bring about better workers, the government is upgrading workers’ skills by investing heavily in Continuous Education and Training (CET).
Mr Lee said, “We have built two new CET Institutes – the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability in Jurong, and the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar. They will enable more workers to upgrade themselves and advance their careers.”
In addition to developing better workers, the government is creating better jobs for Singaporeans, he said.
“This year’s Budget included generous incentives to help companies raise productivity. We are also attracting high-quality investments,” he explained.
He gave the example of Lucasfilm setting up its Sandcrawler base in Singapore, “producing thrilling digital movies for audiences worldwide”. Another example is ExxonMobil which has opened its second cracker on Jurong Island.
However, he did not mention how many jobs were filled by Singaporeans in the 2 examples he gave.
The Prime Minister also noted that the Singapore government is collaborating with neighbouring countries to create more opportunities overseas, whether in Iskandar Malaysia, our G-to-G projects in China, or one of the 5 Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Parks.
But he did not explain how such collaborations can benefit the ordinary Singaporean in Singapore.
“Developing better workers and creating better jobs is our collective responsibility. Each tripartite partner must do their part: Workers must make the effort to train and upgrade themselves. Employers must invest in workers, develop their skills, and make full use of their talents. Only then will the Government’s programmes bear fruit. By working together, we strengthen our model of tripartism, and keep it our lasting competitive advantage,” he said.
However, it is not known how the government is going to create better paying jobs for Singaporeans if it keeps importing foreign workers into Singapore. Despite promises to curtail foreign PMETs, the evidence has been otherwise.
Last month, prominent blogger Leong Sze Hian said:
Despite the consistent rhetoric about the curtailment of foreign labour and increasing evidence and complaints about employment pass and S-pass holders taking aways particularly PMET jobs from, and depressing the wages of Singaporeans – the number of Employment Pass holders grew by 1,300 or 0.8 per cent to 175,100 and S-pass holders grew by 18,500 or a whopping 13 per cent to 160,900 in 2013.
The combined employment pass and S-pass has grown to 236,000.
A Singaporean can upgrade all he wants but if the employer continues to prefer hiring foreigners, there is little he can do. About the only jobs that are protected in Singapore these days are driving taxis and, of course, being MPs and Ministers in the Cabinet.