Speech by Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say at TAFEP’s 10th Anniversary Event on 16 Nov 2016, 3pm, Resorts World Sentosa

16 Nov 2016Speeches

Dr Robert Yap, President SNEF

Brother Heng Chee How, Deputy SG NTUC
TAFEP Co-Chairperson

Mr Douglas Foo, Vice-President, SNEF
TAFEP Co-Chairperson

Sister Halimah Yacob, first TAFEP Co-chair, Speaker of Parliament

Brother Bob Tan, first TAFEP Co-chair

Brothers and Sisters from NTUC central committee

SNEF Council Members

Former members and management of TAFEP

Friends and Partners Good afternoon.


Good afternoon.

1. Welcome to the celebration of TAFEP’s 10th anniversary.Ten years ago, the tripartite partners, namely MOM, SNEF, NTUC came together to form TAFEP to promote fair employment practices.

2. The progress and achievements of TAFEP were very well summarised by TAFEP Co-Chair Mr Douglas Foo in his speech. TAFEP has done well. I congratulate and thank everyone at TAFEP for the passion, commitment and hard work; And all our tripartite partners, both employers and employees, for their active participation and strong support. Having got to where we are today, it is time for TAFEP to build on the good foundation and to re-create itself, because our employment landscape has changed.

3. The past 10 years was a period of strong manpower growth, from 2.1 million in 2005 to 3.4 million in 2015, averaging more than 4% growth a year.In the next 10 years, we will see a vastly different economic and employment landscape.

4. Due to the ageing of our workforce and lower birth rates, local manpower growth has slowed significantly, heading for stagnation in the next decade. With the growth of foreign manpower continuing to be moderated, the Singapore workforce will no longer grow at more than 4% a year as in the past 10 years, but towards 1% a year in the next 10 years.

5. If we continue business as usual, manpower could become the bottleneck of growth, and low economic growth of 1% to 2% could become the new norm in future. We cannot afford to allow this to happen.

6. We are shifting gear, from being a “manpower-led” economy to a “manpower-lean” economy driven by innovation and productivity gains. To succeed, we have to change our mindset.

7. With fast changing technology and aging, instead of looking at workers as “human resources” which may be consumed and depreciate over time, we should treasure and keep investing in them as our precious “human capital”. In this way, everyone, young or old, can remain relevant, employable and productive as we venture into the manpower-lean economy of the future.

8. Human capital is not an abstract idea. Let me share some best practices in the real world. We often hear young jobseekers lament that they are unable to start their career with a good job because companies are only interested in hiring people with “minimum three years of relevant experience”. But if every employer only hire workers who can “plug and play”, then how can our young and inexperienced ever get the chance to acquire the “three years of relevant working experience”.

9. Fortunately, there are progressive employers out there who believe in investing in our young and inexperienced.

10. The Ascott Limited is the world’s largest owner and operator of international serviced residence. It gives their new hires many opportunities to learn and grow,including overseas postings and rotations across different corporate functions. These equip them with the skills to do their current job competently, and also prepare them for leadership roles later in their careers.

11. Azlinda joined Ascott as a Concierge at a young age of 23 without any prior experience in the hospitality industry. Over the years, Ascott exposed her to different areas of work because she has shown great willingness to learn new skills and take on new responsibilities.Two years ago, she was posted to Malaysia where she successfully opened and managed a new property.

12. Azlinda has just been promoted this year to be a Residence Manager overseeing the operations of a 203-unit property in Kuala Lumpur. She is now a valuable asset to the company. Azlinda is not the only one.

13. Since 2012, Ascott has in place a new 18-month programme for its high potential management associates.13 fresh graduates have gone through this programme in the past 4 years. Well done and thank you, Ascott.

14. Working mothers often face challenges in fulfilling their family responsibilities and pursuing their career aspirations.

15. While some companies are concerned that personal or family commitments may affect job performance, progressive employers know that caring for the work-life needs of their employees is the right thing to do.

16. Shell is a good example. Despite being in the traditionally male-dominated oil and gas sector, Shell strongly believes in creating an inclusive workplace for women. Shell actively recruits women, empowers and develops them. It supports them with flexible work arrangements so that they can take care of their family commitments. It adopts innovative work arrangements such as allowing two or more staff to share one full time job, or allowing employees to go on sabbaticals and helping them to find new opportunities within the company when they are ready to return.

17. Li Tiang and Chang Ching are among the many female employees at Shell who have benefited from these flexible work arrangements. Both of them are young mothers. After going on sabbatical leave and a career break to take care of their families, Li Tiang and Chang Ching have since returned to Shell as Regional Finance Managers on a job-sharing arrangement proposed and customised by both of them. This arrangement has worked out well for them and Shell.

18. Li Tiang attributes the success of the flexible work arrangement to the values of trust, respect and inclusiveness which are deeply rooted in Shell’s work culture. For that, well done and thank you to Shell.

19. The number of mature workers in our workforce is growing. 10 years ago, 6% of our local workers were aged 60 and above. Today, it is 12% and rising as our population continues to age.Fortunately, progressive employers do not look at mature workers as a burden. Instead, they value their maturity and experience.

20. FedEx is one of them. It has in place progressive practices to employ and retain mature workers.

21. Lilian was previously a Sales Promoter in the Food Industry. FedEx hired her as an Operations Agent at the age of 55. She did well and was promoted to be a Service Agent. Lilian is not an isolated example in FedEx. Lilian and FedEx show us that mature workers can be better workers too. Well done and thank you, FedEx.

22. Our economy and businesses are globally competitive. An increasing number of our people are on par with global talents too.

23. I am always encouraged and inspired by what some progressive employers do to actively groom our local talent into global talent or “Glocal” talent in short.

24. At DBS, promising employees are groomed for key leadership positions.The bank is especially deliberate in growing a pipeline of future leaders with international experience. High potential employees are given regional assignments. This allows them to gain breadth and depth in understanding the operations in different markets. These stints are invaluable and expose them to different cultures and ideas, to nurture them for bigger roles when they return to Singapore.

25. Tan Teck Long is a glocal talent nurtured by DBS. Five years ago, Teck Long assumed the role of Head of Institutional Banking Group (IBG) in DBS China. There, he led a team of more than 500, and enabled DBS to become one of the first two foreign banks to set up an outlet in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone. For his role in developing the banking industry in Shanghai, he was recognised as one of Shanghai’s top Financial Innovation Leaders in 2014.

26. When Teck Long returned to Singapore in January this year, he assumed a bigger role as COO of DBS Institutional Banking Group and the Group Head of Large Corporates. He now leads an international workforce of more than 1,300 staff across 15 countries, including the US and Australia. Teck Long is a beneficiary of DBS’s Internal Mobility Programme which started in 2010 to expose employees to cross-functional and international postings.

27. For the past five years, close to 40 high potential Singaporeans, took on regional assignments through the programme. Well done and thank you, DBS.

28. Some progressive employers have also transferred skills that are lacking in Singapore to raise the capabilities of our local workforce.

29. In 3M, collaboration between local and foreign employees is a way of life. It is deliberate in bringing in foreign employees with vast international experience and extensive global networks, to accelerate learning by local employees.

30. Eugene is one beneficiary of this system at 3M. He is now a Product Manager for 3M’s Display Materials and Systems Division. He picked up the skills from his predecessor, Mark Ratzlaff, from 3M United States. Mark was brought in to start the operations at the new 3M Tuas Plant in 2010. As the products were patented in the US, the skillsets and experience required for the new operation was not available locally at that time.

31. So Mark was brought in and he provided technical training to the local engineering and production teams. He mentored Eugene and groomed him to be his successor.Eugene took over as the new Product Manager in 2012, when Mark returned to the US.The story doesn’t end here. Eugene is now “paying it forward” by emulating what Mark has done for him, by mentoring younger officers in 3M.

32. 3M shows us how foreign and local manpower can work together to grow Singapore’s operations, while at the same time help to develop a strong Singaporean Core higher up the career ladder. Well done and thank you, 3M.

33. SMEs can be progressive employers too.

34. As an SME, Goodrich Global values Human Capital as its core asset that is critical for business success. Goodrich is forward-looking in its talent management and staff retention strategies. It has a skills framework to help employees acquire suitable competencies which are useful for their career progression.

35. Goodrich Global also pairs new and younger employees with experienced employees for them to benefit from the expertise and perspectives of their more senior team members. With a strong family culture, Goodrich has achieved low turnover rates with an average tenure of nine years.

36. Diana has been working for the company since it was established in 1983. With her wealth of experience, Diana now serves as a mentor to her younger colleagues in the procurement department. Well done and thank you, Goodrich.

37. These best practices by the progressive employers may look different, but all of them have one common point –they invest in their employees regardless of their background and ages. At the end of the day, these progressive employers believe that human resources are more than just human resources –we should invest in them, take good care of them so that they can become valuable human capital. These progressive employment practices are good: for both the employers and employees.

38. It is good for the employers because they will be able to better compete for good people and thereby able to better grow in a manpower-lean economy of the future. Likewise, it is good for the employees because they will be able to better fulfil their full potential, do the best for themselves and at the same time, give their best to their employers.

39. These progressive employers I have cited are not alone. In fact, there are many more progressive employers out there, including all of you here today. However, whatever the number we have today, it is never enough. We need to keep doing more.

40. Unfair employment practices are bad.Fair is good, but progressive is better.We need to spread the culture and adoption of not just legal and fair employment practices, but progressive and best practices to more workplaces in Singapore.

41. The tripartite partners are therefore launching a new partnership programme with all our progressive employers - It is known as the “Human Capital Partnership”, or HCP for short. HCP will be facilitated by TAFEP, supported by the MOM, the tripartite partners, and various economic and sector agencies.

42. Progressive employers joining the HCP will need to commit to three priority outcomes:

43. 2/3 of our workforce is local manpower.It should be the core of the Singapore workforce today, and into the future.

44. Our first priority outcome is to build a stronger Singaporean Core by investing in employees of all ages at all levels in an inclusive way: Young entrants, working mothers, low wage workers, mature workers, mid-career PMETs, glocal talents and more.

45. 1/3 of our workforce is foreign manpower.

46. Our second priority outcome is to forge stronger complementarity between 2/3 local and 1/3 foreign manpower in our Singapore workforce. Instead of taking in foreign manpower to displace and substitute local manpower, our employers should be more selective, take them in to fill the three gaps in our local workforce, namely the number gap, skills gap and timing gap. In other words, instead of 2/3 versus 1/3, we believe that 2/3 and 1/3 is much better.

47. Last but not least, our third priority outcome is to proactively transfer knowhow from foreign PMETs to our local PMETs to help upgrade our local capability. So that 2/3 + 1/3 > 1.

48. What 3M has done is a good role model for all.

49. We can strive to achieve much more as partners in HCP. These three core priority outcomes are important to the development of our human capital as we move forward.These are also areas which the Committee on the Future Economy has been looking at.

50. They will enable our Singapore Workforce of 2/3 locals and 1/3 foreigners, to work better together – To compete for good jobs and good investments with the world out there, instead of competing for employment with each other in here.

51. For spearheading the adoption of progressive employment practices, we will provide “green lane” service to all HCP employers.

52. In support of their efforts to strengthen our Singaporean Core, TAFEP will provide them a one stop advisory service to better access various assistance grants,schemes and programmes, such as those offered under Adapt & Grow, SkillsFuture and Lean Enterprise Development initiatives.

53. In support of their efforts to strengthen the complementarity of foreign and local manpower,and the transfer of capability from foreign to local employees,MOM will help them obtain quick approvals of work passes and provide more responsive support for capability transfers.We will also recognise and publicise the individual and collective efforts of the HCP Community to create greater public awareness.

54. We hope that the HCP employers will grow better and faster because the success of these pioneers and early adopters will help bring on board the early majority in much larger numbers, thereby helping to strengthen the HC culture here in Singapore.

55. In conclusion, the HC Partnership is pro-business, pro-worker and pro-economy. I urge all employers – big and small, from manufacturing to services, from export driven to domestic oriented - to come forward,join the HC Partnership.

56. We will kick off the HCP by early next year, and we aim to grow the size of the HCP community to about 100 within 6 months, with progressive employers coming from all major sectors, and of all sizes.

57. Dear potential HC partners, in here and out there,please commit yourself to the three priority outcomes, and join the HCP community. Let us work together, embrace the Human Capital mindset, and strive for better jobs for our people, better workers for our businesses, and more sustainable and inclusive growth for all.

58. Once again, Happy 10th Anniversary to TAFEP. Thank you.