Speech by Dr Tan See Leng, Minister for Manpower, at TAA 2023 Presentation Ceremony

08 Nov 2023Speeches

Brother Stephen Lee, Chairman, Tripartite Alliance Limited,

Brother Ng Chee Meng, Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress,

Brother Robert Yap, President, Singapore National Employers Federation,

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,


  1. Good evening. I am indeed delighted to be here with all of you at today’s Tripartite Alliance Award Presentation Ceremony.


  2. Since 2018, the tripartite partners have been recognising employers that have successfully implemented progressive employment practices that lead to win-win outcomes for their people and businesses.


  3. Till date, the Tripartite Alliance Award remains the only employer award endorsed by the tripartite partners. Winning organisations can take pride in having exemplary employment practices that keep employees at the heart of business operations and progress. And I believe that as responsible and forward-thinking employers, they also gain a sustainable competitive edge as they are better able to attract and retain talent who can drive greater productivity and success for their businesses.

    Why progressive employment practices are important

  5. Now, more than ever, we must press on with the adoption of progressive employment practices. Allow me to explain. Firstly, Singapore is set to become a “super-aged” society. By 2030, around one in four citizens will be aged 65 and above.Companies that do not have age-friendly practices and workplaces to attract and retain seniors in the workforce will miss out on a valuable reservoir of skills and experience.


  6. Secondly, the ageing population and shrinking family sizes will mean heavier caregiving responsibilities for all of our workers. By 2030, around 1 in 4 citizens (24.1%) will be aged 65 and above. Flexible work arrangements or FWAs to support workers to better care for their loved ones, while fulfilling work responsibilities and achieving a fulfilling career path, and having positive business outcomes will no longer be a “nice to have”. It is going to be a “must have”.In Singapore, 70% of employers are already offering FWAs on a sustained and regular basis. Employers who do not embrace FWAs will find it increasingly difficult to attract and retain talent.


  7. In addition to FWAs, progressive practices can also take many other ways and forms. These include the use of technology to personalise career development for individual employees, the redesign of work environments to better meet the needs of employees at different life stages, and the training and development programmes to enable our senior workers to continue contributing effectively and productively. Implementing progressive practices will help companies to strengthen their employer branding, and enable them to compete effectively in a tight labour market, and expand the pool of talent available to them. But aside from recruitment and retention, I firmly believe that progressive practices facilitate optimal business results. This is especially so in our era of rapid technological development and accelerated economic change. Companies must cultivate a work environment that encourages learning, innovation, and a spirit of continuous improvement to leverage their human capital to its maximum potential.


  8. Today, we have amongst us the Tripartite Alliance Award winners who understand what’s at stake and have all implemented progressive employment practices. Now, please allow me to share some of their experiences.


  9. First up is DBS bank, who is one of our Pinnacle Award winners. They have demonstrated commitment to develop their employees’ skills and provide career growth opportunities.
    • In 2022, DBS launched iGrow as a personalised career companion for their employees. Through machine learning and artificial intelligence, iGrow helps employees identify future career aspirations and the skills required to reach these goals.
    • Based on iGrow’s recommendations of relevant training courses, the bank’s employees have completed over a million training courses in 2022.
    • Employees have also tapped on iGrow’s suggestions of relevant exposure opportunities, with more than 2,000 employees participating in job shadowing opportunities.
    • iGrow also helped to identity suitable roles for employees to move into as part of the bank’s internal mobility programmes. Today, one third of the job vacancies at DBS are filled by internal candidates who are keen to take on new roles.


  10. Next, we have Michelman Asia-Pacific, an SME in the manufacturing industry who is also receiving a Pinnacle Award.
    • At the company, all hiring managers are trained to conduct unbiased interviews, assess candidates based on their ability, experience, and merit, and giving them a fair opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge, skillsets, as well as their experience.
    • Michelman, as a truly inclusive employer, redesigned their work environment to be more inclusive for different groups of employees.
    • They overhauled their traditional 4-day, 12-hour rotating shifts to implement a 5-day work week. This was to take into account their employees’ life stage needs and responsibilities. They also included amenities for women, reducing the barrier to entry for women in their industry. They have successfully recruited their first female chemical operator last year.
    • The company’s progressive outlook has contributed to a high staff retention rate of 90% since 2020, with 90% of their employees declaring that they would be willing to recommend Michelman as a great workplace.

  11. To highlight that progressive and fair employment practices are not just exclusive to big companies, I would like to share the experience of another SME who has won the Tripartite Alliance Award this year, On Cheong Jewellery.
    • In fact, On Cheong started their fair and progressive employment journey over 12 years ago. Even though they are a small company with 33 employees and just one person in their HR department, they ensure that they have structured learning and development programmes. For instance, their workers attend regular courses on personal development and job skills training such as customer service, implementing operations for service excellence, identification of gems and jade, communication, leadership and people management. One staff who has benefitted is Mdm Veronica Lim, who has been with the company for over 30 years. She started out as a Sales Executive, then moved to different roles after upgrading her skills. She is now an Operations Manager, with 12 employees reporting to her.
    • The fair, nurturing and inclusive environment has gone a long way in boosting staff retention for On Cheong. On average, On Cheong staff have a tenure of about 21 years! And the company hopes to continue retaining them! Since its establishment in 1936, the company has also provided re-employment options for their employees, with eligible employees being offered re-employment for up to 71 years of age, three years more than the re-employment age mandated by the Retirement and Re-employment Act. Today, the company proudly shares that they have four senior employees aged above 70 who are still valuable contributors to the organisation.


  12. In conclusion, Michelman, DBS, and On Cheong, are among the 31 deserving winners of this year’s Tripartite Alliance Award. I am pleased to note that this is the highest number of winners in the Award’s history so far.


  13. This bodes well for us, as it shows that more and more companies are putting in place progressive workplace practices. These companies will be on good footing when the Workplace Fairness Legislation is enacted sometime next year.


  14. As we look to the future, I would like to encourage everyone to look upon the Tripartite Alliance Award as a catalyst for fostering fair and inclusive workplaces. It is my hope that one day, we can recognise all companies for having outstanding workplace practices.


  15. Tonight all our winners are trailblazers, I hope they continue to serve as inspirational role models for all of us. Congratulations to all the winners, and I wish everyone a pleasant evening ahead.