Give workers a better sense of security: Sylvia Lim
Amid the pushback against globalisation around the world, Singapore's Government has introduced policies that seek to cushion its citizens from the harsh impact of economic liberalisation, said Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim (Aljunied GRC).
The planned reduction of the foreign worker quota in a few sectors, announced in Budget 2020, will go some way in protecting the jobs of Singaporeans, she added, welcoming the move.
But it may be time to consider other measures that can assuage the anxiety of workers who are facing job disruptions brought on by technological changes and globalisation, she told the House.
She gave two suggestions: Allow Singaporeans to use Central Provident Fund savings to pay for professional qualifications in a different field, and introduce unemployment insurance.
"If the anxiety of citizens is not taken seriously enough, the door to populism and nativism will widen."
Focusing on workers in their 40s and 50s, Ms Lim said while significant resources have been devoted to help them reskill and switch industries, more can be done to give them a sense of security.
She noted that some who had been laid off tapped the Adapt and Grow initiative, which helps people reskill, but were still unable to find a job for months.
She suggested that people who have met their CPF minimum sums be allowed to use their CPF to pay for retraining when they want to switch industries.
She also called on the Government to consider implementing redundancy insurance, which pays people an income when they become unemployed.
On her CPF suggestion, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said a lack of training funds is not the main barrier for people looking to switch careers. Rather, it is the concern of unfamiliar occupations and sectors.
A key part is to provide the "scaffolding and the hand-holding" they need to make such transitions, Mrs Teo said.
On unemployment insurance, the minister warned that it could have unintended consequences.
"While we keep an open mind about unemployment insurance, we should also be aware of its serious downsides, such as reducing employers' willingness to pay retrenchment benefits...(and) reducing motivation to find work," she said.
Rather, she added, the best way to support workers is to ensure a pro-business environment so that jobs are always being created, people are supported in retraining, and companies promote fair employment practices.