D. Equipping Our Workers For Life


D. Equipping Our Workers For Life

  1. 54. Sir, people and talent are critical to our economic dynamism. We are investing heavily in our human capital, including in preschool and education. But learning cannot stop when formal schooling ends, and that is why we launched SkillsFuture – to systematically support Singaporeans in reskilling and upskilling, and to equip them throughout life.
  2. 55. The Singapore workforce today ranks highly in terms of skills and technical proficiency. Our workers are able to command a premium in the global marketplace because of their expertise. But with rapid technological advances, expertise is in constant flux. Jobs like data entry clerks and door-to-door salesmen have dwindled in numbers. New jobs that did not exist decades ago, like data scientists and digital marketers are now in demand.
  3. 56. Expertise keeps on changing. In other words, robots and machines will not completely replace humans at work. But they do change the way expertise is defined and how value is created. We therefore have to invest even more in our human capital, and help our workers refresh and update their skills, and learn how to harness new technologies more effectively. Indeed, this is something that NTUC and the Labour Movement have consistently championed, most recently in the Forward Singapore engagements.

Strengthening SkillsFuture

  1. 57. We started SkillsFuture nearly 10 years ago. Since then, Government spending on Continuing Education and Training has nearly doubled to $0.9 billion last year.
  2. 58. Today, every Singaporean gets a $500 SkillsFuture Credit, and all employers get support to train their workers. We have also built up a wide array of training options, which individuals enjoy generous subsidies for.
  3. 59. We have made good progress over the past decade. But there is still much more to be done. Continuous skills upgrading throughout life is now more than important than ever. So we must firmly establish SkillsFuture as a key pillar in our social compact.
  4. 60. Quality learning and skills training is not just about attending a one- or two-day course. Workers may need weeks or even months of training to get a proper skills reboot, especially if they are looking to move to a different area of work. Even if they stay in the same industry, they will need a substantial injection of skills from time to time to stay relevant.
  5. 61. But we know that taking time off from work to attend training courses over an extended period is not easy, especially for those in their 40s and 50s with financial and caregiving obligations.
  6. 62. I will therefore introduce a new SkillsFuture Level-Up Programme to better support our mid-career workers. I will share the broad thrusts of this programme, and the Minister for Education will provide more details at the Committee of Supply. (See Annex D-1.)
  7. 63. First, I will give all Singaporeans aged 40 and above a top-up in SkillsFuture Credit of $4,000.
    1. a. All Singaporeans aged 40 and above will get the top-up in May this year. For those who are younger, you do not have to worry. Your turn will come – you will get the top-up, when you turn 40.
    2. b. We have deliberately allowed the existing basic tier of $500 in SkillsFuture Credit to be used for a wide range of courses, and this was to instil a habit of lifelong learning.
    3. c. The new credit – this $4,000 credit – will be more targeted in scope. We will confine its usage to selected training programmes with better employability outcomes. This includes part-time and full-time diploma, post-diploma, undergraduate programmes, as well as courses for the Progressive Wage Model sectors. And that is because we want participants taking up these programmes to be assured of better employment outcomes after they have completed their training.
  8. 64. Second, to provide more reskilling options, I will provide subsidies to all Singaporeans aged 40 and above to pursue another full-time diploma at our Polytechnics, ITE, and Arts Institutions from Academic Year 2025 onwards.
  9. 65. In other words, we will give every Singaporean another bite of the education subsidy. Even after you have graduated from an Institute of Higher Learning as a younger person, you can come back again after you turn 40 to do a full-time diploma, and it will be at subsidised rates.
  10. 66. Third, I will provide a monthly training allowance to Singaporeans aged 40 and above who enrol in selected full-time courses.
    1. a. This training allowance will be equivalent to 50% of one’s average income over the latest available 12-month period, and will be capped at $3,000 per month. Every individual can receive up to 24 months of such a training allowance throughout their lifetime.
    2. b. This will support the full duration of a SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme, and more than half the duration of most qualifications issued by our Institutes of Higher Learning.
  11. 67. What do these changes mean for our workers?
    1. a. Take the example of Mr Calvin Li, 40 years old now; graduated from Singapore Polytechnic with a Diploma in Electronic, Computer and Communication Engineering.
    2. b. He works today as a Project Director at Khoon Engineering, a mechanical and electrical service provider. With the SkillsFuture Level-Up Programme, he will enjoy a $4,000 top-up in SkillsFuture Credit.
    3. c. He can use the Credit to pursue a second diploma. This diploma will be offered at subsidised fees, and the Credit will cover more than half of the expense after subsidies.
    4. d. Should he intend to do this full-time, he can receive the monthly training allowance of up to 50% of his previous pay for two years.
  12. 68. Sir, we are making a significant enhancement to our SkillsFuture ecosystem. But we will reap the full benefits only if all of us – government, employers, workers, and unions – lean forward to truly deepen this culture of lifelong learning and skills mastery. This must be our shared commitment to one another – to help our fellow Singaporeans develop to their fullest potential, and to have productive and meaningful careers.

Supporting the Involuntarily Unemployed

  1. 69. There is one other move we will make under SkillsFuture. We know that technological changes will bring about more churn in the economy. Even when the economy as a whole is doing well, some businesses or even some industries may be suffering. In fact, it is not possible to have an economy that is dynamic and growing without failures and losses. In some sectors, firms will have to let go of people, while in other sectors, new and better jobs will be created.
  2. 70. We have to accept this reality. But it doesn’t mean we should be indifferent to the suffering caused when firms lay off their workers.
  3. 71. Losing a job is a major setback for workers and their families. Those who become involuntarily unemployed naturally feel the pressure to rush into the first available job they find. But the new job may not always be a good fit. Ideally, they should consider ways to upgrade their skills, and to find a job that fits their aptitude and talent. Displaced workers may not have the time to train or search for new jobs, especially when they are already straining to make ends meet.
  4. 72. Therefore, we will do more to support this group of workers. In particular, we will introduce a temporary financial support scheme for the involuntarily unemployed, while they undergo training or look for better-fitting jobs.
    1. a. We have to design this scheme carefully, including the quantum of support and the conditionalities that come with the support. This is to avoid the pitfalls that other countries experienced when they introduced unemployment benefits.
    2. b. We are working out the parameters for the scheme, and we will provide more details later this year.
  5. 73. Ours must always be an economy that provides opportunities for all; an economy that benefits the many rather than the few. This is why we are making significant enhancements to SkillsFuture, and supporting jobseekers while they search for their next opportunity. We believe that every worker matters; that every citizen counts. We will equip every Singaporean to benefit from the fruits of our economic growth.