Mr Leon Perera asked the Minister for Manpower (a) for each year in the past three years, what is the income data of the long-term unemployed population with a breakdown by income groups; (b) what are the top five industries with the highest long-term unemployment rates; and (c) what are the plans to support long-term unemployed workers in these industries.

The Minister for Manpower (Dr Tan See Leng): MOM adopts the same approach taken by other national statistical agencies and tracks long-term unemployment rates disaggregated by age, gender and education qualifications. These figures are released regularly through our labour market reports.

The industries with the highest long-term unemployment rates in June 2021 were Transportation and Storage, Administrative and Support Services, Arts, Entertainment and Recreation, Construction, Accommodation and Food Services, and Real Estate Services. These industries have been relatively more impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the long-term unemployment rates across industries also fluctuate from year to year, so it does not make sense to focus on the top industries. Instead, we have to help workers across the economy to continue to stay relevant and also for jobseekers wishing to switch careers, to help them switch into new jobs. 

Our measures include efforts to pre-emptively tackle the issue of skills obsolescence and reduce the chances of workers falling into long-term unemployment. This is even more apt in this current world where there is so much disruption and transformation going on.

We publish Jobs Transformation Maps or JTMs, which are detailed sectoral manpower studies mapping out the impact of technology and digitalisation on individual jobs over the medium term, to identify opportunities for employers to transform their jobs as well as to upskill their workers to be ready for these transformed jobs.

Employers can tap on various Government programmes to do so. Under the Support for Job Redesign under Productivity Solutions Grant, there is funding support for employers undergoing business transformation to redesign jobs to be more productive and attractive to workers. Workforce Singapore, or WSG, has also rolled out Job Redesign Reskilling Programmes to support employers to upskill their employees to take on enhanced job roles. Employers who need support on their transformation journeys can partner with NTUC to establish a Company Training Committee, or CTC. NTUC has done so with over 800 companies. MOM will continue to support NTUC’s efforts. 

So, the first part alludes to supporting the employers, the businesses. Now, the employee side. To directly support local jobseekers, the National Jobs Council has placed more than 174,000 jobseekers into jobs and skills opportunities as of end-December 2021. This is under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills, or SGUJS, Package. The Jobs Growth Incentive, or JGI, was also introduced to encourage employers to expand local hiring amidst economic uncertainty.

Jobseekers also have access to WSG’s career matching services and programmes. Several of our programmes provide enhanced support for the long-term unemployed. In particular, the Career Conversion Programmes, or CCPs, help jobseekers to reskill for in-demand growth jobs. Employers who hire long-term unemployed candidates will receive higher support of up to 90% of salary costs. We have also appointed Adecco as our first SGUnited Jobs and Skills Placement Partner to provide additional job matching avenues for more vulnerable jobseekers, including the long-term unemployed.

Mr Deputy Speaker: Mr Leon Perera.

Mr Leon Perera (Aljunied): I thank the Minister for a very comprehensive answer. I just have two supplementary questions. One is, the Minister alluded to the fact that the long-term unemployment rate does fluctuate across industries and he highlighted the top few industries for long-term unemployment. I am just wondering whether the Ministry has given any thought to identifying those industries that may be most at-risk from long-term unemployment, based on technological changes and economic changes that we can foresee, and whether efforts are underway to proactively push out communications, maybe get ahead of the curve, to employers and employees to get them to reskill or upskill so that they will not be so much at risk of long-term unemployment from these technological changes.

The second question is, the Minister alluded to programme such as CCP and I think Professional Conversion Programme is maybe another subset of that. One bit of feedback that I do come across sometimes is that these reskilling programmes, the number of places is limited and people have to compete to get into these programmes. And I am wondering if the Government is considering expanding the supply of such programmes to keep up with the demand.

Dr Tan See Leng: I thank Mr Leon Perera for his question. Indeed, for the at-risk industries, we work very closely with the different economic agencies including the other Ministry that I am also overseeing with Minister Gan Kim Yong, working with EDB and ESG to identify which sectors or types of industries are at risk of disruption. We actually work with them to develop JTMs. I think there are about 15 JTMs planned. These are the Job Transformation Maps.

What we do is that we believe in not just making sure of identifying the at-risk employees, but we also want to identify the at-risk businesses, so that there is a proper matching. On top of that, we also – I think I have alluded some time ago – that we have a job taskforce with a clear target in terms of trying to go down to the granular details, to see where some of these potential mismatches could end up with. 

As a result of that, we have been able to in some of these at-risk areas, identified the number of jobs available. I think we are now on a fairly good trajectory of achieving those targets.

Moving forward, in terms of the CCPs, the CCPs are limited by the ability of the companies or the businesses that we are working with, for them to dedicate and allocate resources. WSG has a sustained effort to increase and maximise the number of CCP places working in collaboration with these companies and to develop more programmes for the employees, particularly those making mid-career switches, looking to upskill, to reskill or to pivot. The key thing is obviously bringing these companies on board, because some companies, particularly the smaller ones, find that they may not necessarily have the bandwidth nor the resources to join us in developing some of these CCPs.

As a result, we then work with the economic agencies to see whether we could help them tap on the Support for Job Redesign under Productivity Solutions Grant (PSG-JR) or some of the other types of bridging loans for them to be able to leverage on these resources to help train and to help them pivot to new, hopefully, greener pastures. I hope that answers the Member’s question. There are quite a number of these programmes available. 

Mr Deputy Speaker: Assoc Prof Jamus Lim. 

Assoc Prof Jamus Jerome Lim (Sengkang): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. If I could just quickly follow up, I understand that Minister has mentioned that it is not generally suitable for us to pay too much attention to the specific industry categories. But I wonder if he could just characterise whether these tend to fall more within what we would typically call “higher-skilled, more trained educated jobs” or whether they tend to fall along the lower-skilled spectrum. And I ask because I think it is imperative for us to get a handle on this, because our policy response for addressing displacement because of lower-skilled workers, could be quite different from higher-skilled ones. 

Dr Tan See Leng: I thank Assoc Prof Jamus Lim for his question. I think there are two aspects of it that we have been gleaning from the statistics and also the data that we have obtained. Generally, the older age group, particularly from I think those that are in their 50s and 60s, have a relatively higher difficulty in obtaining jobs. In terms of the educational level, typically, these are those who have not gotten Diplomas, I mean they have Secondary education.

I want to add that the long-term unemployment rate is not high to begin with – we are at about 0.9%. In a very good year, we are at about 0.7% or 0.8%. So, that 0.9% equates to about 22,000 residents. This is the group we are looking at. We have tried to see what are some of the skillsets that we could nudge them to upgrade to. Many of them, we would need them to work with us in terms pivoting, reskilling in the ICT sector and also in terms of improving the value-added and the productivity of the roles that they are performing in. 

One of the challenges is also the fact that across the industry, it is the inward-facing ones, I think the same ones that we have been talking about the last couple of months. The inward-facing ones – retail, some of those in food services and hospitality – they continue to still be relatively slower compared to the outward-facing sectors in the recovery. So, these are the ones that we are trying our level best with, by identifying them, working closely with the industry to see how we can actually help them transform, we can actually help them to also repackage some of the services that they are able to offer. And as a result of that, then have a whole series of programmes for this group of individuals, whether place-and-train, attach-and-train, so that we can actually take some of the economic burden off the companies, by Government subsidising or funding a large part of that training for us to collectively achieve the end goal of getting them gainfully employed. 

So, we can go into a lot more granular detail, but I think that perhaps suffice to say if it answers directionally the Member’s question and line of reasoning, I am happy to take it further in subsequent sessions to try and see how we can come to an even more focused and even more nuanced solution for this group of individuals.

Ministry of Manpower
18 February 2022

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