ECONOMY | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Lifelong employability matters more than lifelong employment: Heng

The shift comes as the deputy prime minister expects a fast-changing and uncertain post-COVID-19 world.

The pandemic has made Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat change his views on the labour market.

"Lifelong employment” is indeed no longer a key feature of it, he said in a speech for the 40th anniversary of the Singapore National Employers Federation. What matters more is “lifelong employability”.

He noted that along with a rapid advancement of technologies came newer, disruptive companies. This has shortened the lifespan of companies. Globalisation and the increased possibility of remote work has also produced a work environment that is less bound by physical geography.

"Some argue that the employer-employee relationship has become more short-term, more transactional, citing the rise of the gig economy and shorter employee tenure. They argue that as a result, the bond between businesses and workers has weakened," the minister said.

Expecting a fast-moving, complex and uncertain post-COVID-19 world, Heng said that the bond between employers and employees would be critical in enhancing both the worker's employability and the company's longevity.

"Workers who are givencontinuous support from their employers to upgrade and new opportunities,can growand develop. In turn, companies thrivewhen workers havethe relevant experience and skills, and the ability to create and innovate," Heng said.

Heng cited the Industry Transformation Maps (ITM) as one of the advantages that Singapore has over other countries, by letting employers nurture and upskill their workers. He reiterated the need to refresh the ITM, citing three new thrusts.

"First, the refresh of the ITMs will be complemented bythe work of the Emerging Stronger Taskforce and the Alliances for Actionthat it has pioneered. Second, our ITM 2025 efforts will be more closely integrated with our $25 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2025 Plan, whichI announced last year. Third, we will strengthen our focus on the redesign of jobs, the reskilling of our workers, and the training ofour students in the Institutes of Higher Learning," Heng said.

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