Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied): Minister, just two quick clarifications. The first, is on the size of the TAFEP team that surveys, educates and takes action against companies that engage in unfair hiring practices. What is the size of that team? Is the Minister of the view that that team needs to be enlarged?
The second question takes off from comments made by the Second Minister for Manpower in the course of the debate over the last few days. Is MOM looking to beef up resources on unfair hiring practices. Could Minister share some details on what those measures specifically are?
Mrs Josephine Teo: Sir, I would have to come back to Mr Singh on the exact size of the TAFEP team. We have been beefing up, so the latest number I do not have it offhand.
Would we want to strengthen the resources? The answer is yes, but I would also say that at the same time, it is important for us to reach out to employers and to ensure that they do their part to upkeep fair hiring practices.
Why do I say so? If all of our efforts are directed purely towards enforcement, I think what you do create as an environment is one where you are always pitted against each other. You are always assuming that the employers are not trying to do their part, you are always assuming that the employers have something to hide and you are always assuming that the employers have no real difficulties that they are facing of their own.
If you interact with enough employers, they will tell you that, “We have very serious challenges also in reaching out to potential jobseekers”. So, we have to take a balanced approach and ask ourselves, what is the combination of actions that will be most helpful to the employers and to the businesses, which in turn will be more helpful to expanding opportunities for our own people. That balance is one that we are always constantly trying to strike.
I was very cheered when Ms He Ting Ru asked the question of what are the tripartite discussions, the tripartite discussions are precisely this – how can each one of us do our part? The unions are reaching out to the jobseekers, encouraging them to understand where the opportunities are and to be willing to be trained for those opportunities. The employers, being cognisant of the slack in the job market, in the availability of jobseekers, possibly redesigning their jobs so that more locals will be attracted to them and also making a real effort to participate in programmes that can help them to strengthen their local workforce.
You need a combination of factors. You cannot overly rely on just one and also create an environment where there is so much distrust and no one believes that it is actually important each one does their part, to strengthen the workforce profiles within businesses and striking the right balance is what we must strive to do.
Ministry of Manpower
4 September 2020