Jobs the top priority in Singapore for the next few years: President Halimah
Jobs will continue to be the top priority for the next few years, said President Halimah Yacob yesterday.
Keeping people in work is the best way to help them take care of their families, and keep their skills current until the economy improves, she added, as the Covid-19 crisis continues to weigh heavily on the job market.
Speaking at the opening session of the 14th Parliament, Madam Halimah said that to sustain job creation, the economy must be kept strong and competitive, so there is an urgency to transform it and find new ways to make a living.
For instance, air travel will be resumed safely to maintain Singapore's role as a global and regional hub.
Businesses will get the help they need to develop links to new markets.
Efforts to increase the nation's resilience in critical areas like food, healthcare and supply chain management can become new sources of growth, said the President.
OPEN AND CONNECTED
The economy will undergo significant structural shifts, she added, with some sectors changing forever and some jobs disappearing, but Singapore must remain open and connected.
She said: "Much of our economy thrives because we have made ourselves a vibrant hub for the region and an attractive place for trade, investments, talent and ideas. We cannot take our hub status for granted or assume that its scope and role will remain the same."
Madam Halimah acknowledged Singaporeans' fears and anxieties about jobs, and said Covid-19 has worsened the pressure caused by a slowing global economy in recent years.
Lower-wage workers, mature workers and mid-career Singaporeans with heavier financial commitments and families to support have been hit hard.
The Government, said Madam Halimah, is doing all it can to help. For instance, it is supporting businesses, especially small- and medium-sized enterprises, with cash flow and credit so they can stay afloat and retain their workers.
The National Jobs Council is working with the Government, employers and unions to create new jobs and skills upgrading opportunities for Singaporeans.
It is overseeing the design and implementation of the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package to create 100,000 jobs, traineeships and training places.
Said Madam Halimah: "We will continue to look out for our lower-wage and mature workers, many of whom are also essential workers who have been keeping Singapore going during the crisis.
"We are also making a concerted effort to help workers in their 40s and 50s, by matching them to suitable jobs and SkillsFuture programmes.
"I urge employers to see mid-career Singaporeans as valuable assets, and provide them with opportunities and training for new jobs."
The President acknowledged the growing anxiety over competition for jobs from foreigners, and said the Government will address these concerns.
Singaporeans must have confidence in the rights and privileges of citizenship, she said, adding that their interests are "always paramount" in all that the Government does.
But at the same time, Singapore cannot afford to turn inwards and should continue to welcome those who can contribute, she added.
Urging Singaporeans to keep their hearts open, the President said: "We should continue to welcome and integrate those who can contribute to Singapore, and improve our lives and our children's future."