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Jobs from new investments mostly go to Singaporeans: Chan Chun Sing

JOBS created from new investments in Singapore are predominantly filled by Singaporeans, and while there is an emphasis on high-tech sectors, the Republic will need a range of other jobs to cater to older workers, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said.

In a media interview ahead of the Singapore Economic Development Board's Year 2019 In Review, Mr Chan said 85 per cent of the resident workforce are Singaporean, while the remaining 15 per cent are permanent residents (PRs), bringing the ratio to about 6:1. The ratio is roughly the same even for new jobs created and the unemployment rate, he added.

This topic has garnered wide interest in recent weeks following a debate Mr Chan had with Aljunied GRC MP and Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh in Parliament, over the proportion of Singaporeans who were part of the increase in local resident employment between 2015 and 2018.

Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad had revealed to the House that there was a 39,300 increase in employment for Singaporeans and an 8,600 increase for PRs between 2015 and 2018 in sectors where the 23 Industry Transformation Maps were introduced.

On Thursday, Mr Chan noted that this indicated a ratio of about 5:1 for Singaporean to PR workers, but said this is to be expected.

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"When we talk about PRs, actually we only accept the PRs if they have strong job opportunities," he said.

"Because we pre-select the PRs, it will not be surprising that in some sectors, the PR performance is just slightly better than the Singaporeans."

He added that unemployment rate for foreigners is low simply because they would not continue to be in Singapore if they are unemployed.

This brings the ratio of residents to foreigners in the economy to 3:1, after accounting for foreign workers and foreign domestic workers, Mr Chan said.

Fast-growing sectors are more likely to see foreign employees because these sectors are precisely the ones facing a global shortage of talent, he noted. 

Expressing "full confidence" in the younger generation's abilities to take on high-paying jobs, as indicated by recent employment surveys, Mr Chan said there is a need to ensure that the jobs that are being created are not just in the high-tech sectors.

"Their skills are highly sought after by the new generation of companies, but we must also realise that we have an older group of workers in their 40s to 50s whose skills might not be the same as those who are younger," Mr Chan said.

This is why the government is cognisant of the range of jobs that need to be created for those that come with high investment.

At the same time, Mr Chan emphasised the urgency to reskill and upskill such workers.

"This generation has left school for more than 20 years. The skills that they have acquired 20 years ago will not be able to sustain them for the next 20 years without a skill top-up," he said.

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