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Navigating the digital future: A closer look at Singapore Budget 2023 measures in view of the rapidly changing workplace

By Michele Chao, Yap Hsien Yew, Harsh Shah

The Singapore Budget 2023 has been announced amidst a challenging environment marked by geopolitical tension, global uncertainties, and high inflation. The economic growth rate for 2023 is projected to be lower than the previous year’s, while unemployment remains below pre-pandemic levels.

To boost economic growth, the government is taking steps to address the issue of employability and prepare for future business disruptions. The Budget reflects the government’s commitment to transform the country into a digital economy and support the workforce in a volatile and disrupted economic landscape.

A key focus is to ensure that training leads to good employment outcomes for workers who may be unsure about what training programmes or competencies are necessary to secure a job, even as employers struggle to fill vacancies despite a ready pool of job seekers.

The introduction of the Jobs-Skills Integrators initiative is a proactive step by the government. These intermediaries, which can be existing institutions, will collaborate with the industry, training providers, and employment facilitation partners to optimise training and job placement.

The Jobs-Skills Integrators will have a broad mandate, including engaging with enterprises to pinpoint skills gaps, updating or creating new training programmes, and identifying individuals with the right aptitude for training to enhance their job prospects. The pilot of the Jobs-Skills Integrators will begin in the Precision Engineering, Retail, and Wholesale Trade sectors. While we await further details, this initiative is a promising step.

In addition, to enhance the quality of Singapore’s workforce, the National Productivity Fund will receive a $4 billion top-up to finance productivity enhancements and continuing education and training for workers. This investment acknowledges the importance of supporting workers as they navigate the volatile job market.

In line with the ongoing efforts to strengthen support for older workers and to encourage them to continue to stay employed, the government announced in 2019 that CPF contribution rates will be raised gradually over the decade for Singaporeans and PRs aged between 55 to 70-years-old.

The first increase came into effect on 1 January 2022, and the subsequent increase took effect recently on 1 January 2023. Each increase resulted in a 1.5% to 2% increase in CPF contributions for workers within this age group.

During Budget 2023, the Finance Minister announced that the CPF contribution rates for these older workers will continue to increase in 2024, by 1% to 1.5%. Similar to previous years, employers will be provided with a CPF transition offset to mitigate the rise in business costs.

The Finance Minister has also announced the extension of the Senior Employment Credit and Part-time Re-employment Grant until 2025. Both schemes provide support to employers who are committed to employing senior Singaporean workers aged 55 and above.

Although commendable, the current initiatives aimed at helping struggling workers may not be sufficient to overcome significant challenges facing the job market. As the nature of work evolves and disruptive technologies like the metaverse, artificial intelligence, and meta cloud emerge, it is crucial for Jobs-Skills Integrators to provide relevant training to equip workers with the skills needed to stay competitive in this digital age. In this regard, factors like accessibility, relevance, and sustainability are essential for the success of upskilling and reskilling programs for workers.

To create more employment options for older workers, Singapore needs to explore other solutions, such as supporting the creation of new flexible work arrangements and encouraging companies to adopt inclusive hiring practices. Additionally, lifelong learning is critical to help workers remain employable in the digital age.

From the employer’s standpoint, there are also benefits to be reaped by investing in employees’ training and development, such as improved productivity, reduced turnover, and better talent retention. Examples of successful initiatives include the SkillsFuture Enterprise Credit and the TechSkills Accelerator programmes, which aim to encourage enterprises to embark on business and workforce transformation efforts and facilitate the reskilling and upskilling of workers to meet industry needs.

In conclusion, the Singapore Budget 2023 demonstrates the government’s firm support in helping the workforce navigate the digital future through initiatives aimed at improving employability and enhancing the quality of the workforce.

However, to effectively address the challenges posed by the changing job market, a holistic approach is necessary, which includes upskilling and reskilling programmes, flexible work arrangements, and inclusive hiring practices.

With the right policies and initiatives, Singapore can create a resilient workforce that is well-equipped to thrive in the digital age, and the Jobs-Skills Integrators initiative is a move in the right direction.
 

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