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Parliamentary Replies

Persuading GLCs to Prioritise Singaporean Jobs in Mass Retrenchment Exercises

05 Oct 2020
Parliamentary Question by Ms Sylvia Lim:

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance whether the Government, as a major investor in Government-linked companies, uses its shareholder influence to persuade investee companies to prioritise Singaporean jobs during any mass retrenchment exercise.

Parliamentary Reply by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr Heng Swee Keat:

As members of the House are aware, GIC and Temasek operate independently from the Government. The Government maintains an arm’s-length relationship with these investment entities, and neither directs nor influences their commercial or operational decisions. The same applies for the portfolio companies they invest in, whether in Singapore or otherwise. This is an important governance principle that we have carefully safeguarded over the years, which has helped to instill strong commercial discipline in the way they manage their investments. 

Since the start of COVID-19, the Government has been doing all it can to support jobs for Singaporeans. Our measures apply to all jobs in Singapore, including those in the investee companies. 

Our efforts to support jobs does not only happen when retrenchment occurs. There are three key prongs to our approach. First, we work with our tripartite partners to stave off job losses. The Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment (“Tripartite Advisory”) emphasises retrenchment as a last resort, only after employers have exhausted other alternatives such as redeployment and flexible work arrangements. The Government also intervened aggressively upstream to protect jobs when COVID-19 happened, by introducing the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) to support companies in their wage costs. Since the launch of JSS, over $16 billion of payouts have been disbursed, benefitting over two million local workers. 

COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis. Even with our best efforts, retrenchments may be inevitable in some companies. Hence, the second prong of our approach is to work closely with our tripartite partners to ensure that retrenchments are conducted responsibly. The Ministry of Manpower has advised employers to adhere to the Tripartite Advisory, and use clear and objective criteria in the selection of employees and conduct the retrenchment responsibly and sensitively. 

Third, we continue to support job creation and ensure that our workers are ready for these new opportunities. This is done through our Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) efforts and the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package which offers jobs, traineeships and training opportunities. The National Jobs Council, chaired by SM Tharman, is working hard through agencies to implement this package. The Jobs Growth Incentive also aims to encourage companies to frontload their hiring, while our SkillsFuture movement encourages and supports our workers in upskilling and transforming themselves for a post-COVID world.

And this is our approach to supporting jobs for Singaporeans across the board, not just in Government-linked companies, and not just for the immediate term through this crisis but also for the longer term, to ensure that employment can be sustained beyond COVID-19.