Speech By Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister For Manpower at the TAFEP Exemplary Employer Award Presentation Ceremony On Friday, 8 April 2016, 9.05am At Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel Singapore

08 Apr 2016Speeches

Dr Robert Yap, President, Singapore National Employers Federation;

Ms Mary Liew, President, National Trades Union Congress;

Mr Heng Chee How, Deputy Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress, and TAFEP Co-Chairperson;

Mr Douglas Foo, Vice-President, Singapore National Employers Federation, and TAFEP Co-Chairperson;

Friends and Partners


Good morning.

Congratulations to this year’s winners of TAFEP Exemplary Employer Awards.

This morning, we recognise companies that have put in consistent efforts over a long period of time, and embraced a progressive mindset in harmonising the needs of the businesses and employees. Well done.

Challenges faced by businesses today

Our employment growth has slowed down. We have moderated our intake of foreign manpower in tandem with the slowdown in local manpower growth due to lower birth rates and a rapidly ageing population. With our employment rate among the highest, and unemployment rate among the lowest in the world, our labour market will be tight.

Qualities needed for success

Companies need to adapt to this new landscape by transforming themselves from manpower-led to manpower-lean, and strengthen their Singaporean core.

Besides investing in technology and automation, to enhance competitiveness, employers must also invest in their human capital. Employers who are able to position themselves as better employers will be the winners in our future economy.

  • Making people-oriented decisions
  • Maximising the full potential of every worker
  • Treating every worker fairly, and
  • Adopting inclusive and progressive workplace practices

When workers feel valued and cared for, they will be loyal, contribute more and can even serve as advocates for their companies. They are the companies’ best assets, and this will sustain business growth.

Caring for a diverse workforce

Companies need to cater to the needs and aspirations of every worker – older workers, back-to-work parents, mid-career workers, young and inexperienced workers, and so on.

Help for workers and employers

Government is doing its part too. There are various Government initiatives that support age-friendly workplace practices: like the extension of the Special Employment Credit (SEC) and WorkPro grants for job redesign.

Workers with family responsibilities may also need some flexibility in work arrangements such as work timings, duration and location, so they can better manage their personal and work responsibilities.

The desired outcome is to help workers be happy, healthy, productive and purposeful (H2P2).

Companies with H2P2 workers will do better. They can better attract and retain good workersand can stay competitive.

Qualities of TEEA winners

I applaud the winners of the TAFEP Exemplary Employer Award 2016. You have gone the extra mile and shown your commitment to implement fair, responsible and progressive employment practices in your companies.

Many of the winners have shown how the diversity of our Singaporean workforce can be an advantage: different genders, ages, races, religions and nationalities.

Among the winners of this year’s Awards is DBS Bank. It has invested much in the development of employees’ skills and put in place clear career pathways to create opportunities for progression.

Some of their progressive practices include:

  • POSB Active Neighbours Programme, an initiative to hire older workers as part-timers at POSB branches.
  • Culture of promoting gender diversity: more than half of its workforce and a third of its leadership positions are held by women, and DBS provides a range of flexible work arrangements to help employees manage work and personal responsibilities.
  • “Triple E” Talent Development Framework: gaining Experience through job rotation and cross-functional projects, widening Exposure through coaching, mentoring and networking, and supporting Education by providing relevant and new ways of learning.
  • Future of Work initiatives: using technology to help employees work seamlessly and flexibly, even from home if needed.

With DBS’ progressive and forward-looking practices, TAFEP has awarded it the new “I-Future” award. The award recognises companies that invest in their workers and put in place clear career pathways for progression within the company.

Having fair and progressive workplaces is not limited to just big players.

3E Accounting is a good example of how SMEs can also do it:

  • The company grew from a husband-and-wife team in 2011 to 24 employees today.
  • Revenue also grew correspondingly, from $450,000 in 2012 to $3M in 2015 --- an increase of over 6 times!
  • What did they do right? The company values its workers and shows care. Its positive workplace practices also contribute to their low turnover rate. Some examples:
    • Infrastructure is in place to enable workers to work from home if needed;
    • Workers can take up to 3 hours of time-off to attend to personal matters instead of applying for annual leave;
    • Fathers are given one additional week of paternity leave;
    • Committed to training and development of employees. Total training hours for all workers increased from 55 hours in 2013 to 748 hours in 2015:
    • Takes care of workers’ welfare. Welfare budget has increased by more than 3 times! (from $5K in 2012 to $16K in 2015);
    • All policies and benefits are at least as favourable as the statutory requirements, regardless of whether the individual worker is covered under the Employment Act.

TAFEP’s 10th anniversary

This year marks TAFEP’s 10th year anniversary. Since 2006 when it was set up, TAFEP has introduced many initiatives to help companies implement fair and progressive workplace practices:

  • To date, more than 4,300 organisations have signed the Employers Pledge of Fair Employment Practices.
  • Recently launched Fair@Work Promise, an individual commitment to get everyone at the workplace, to play their part to be fair and inclusive, and to see people for their abilities, and not judge them based on their biases or stereotypes.
  • Provided customised advice to companies and also resources and tools like workshops, education materials and publications, to help employers implement fair and progressive practices.
  • Assisted individuals who have encountered workplace discrimination and helped employers to close HR gaps.

I thank our tripartite leaders for the strong partnership. Together, TAFEP will press on with its efforts.


In conclusion, as we transform our economy to be more manpower-lean, employers must focus on building and nurturing its human capital (the workers) and adopt fair and progressive workplace practices, in order to transform and grow in the future economy.

Having such practices creates win-win outcomes for everyone. This enables us to strengthen our Singaporean core and keep our economy vibrant.

The tripartite partners are committed to work together to help companies thrive in this new economic and employment landscape, and help our people continue to have good jobs and meaningful careers.

Once again, congratulations to all the winners today.

Thank you.