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Singapore business body calls on firms to take up sustainable employment practices

TO help tackle inequality, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) is calling on firms to pledge their support for sustainable employment practices.

This is in line with six recommendations to support PMETs (professionals, managers, executives, and technicians), mature workers, and workers in essential services such as cleaning, in a report launched by the SBF at its Sustainable Employment Conference on Friday.

"Sustainable employment enables employees, customers and communities to thrive. This leads to better businesses and long-term growth," said SBF chairman S S Teo.

Written in consultation with over 300 business leaders and industry stakeholders, the 'Sustainable Employment - Achieving Purposeful Business Success Together' report is "by business, for business", he added.

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Among the recommendations are that firms should take greater ownership of upskilling PMETs, avoid age discrimination and redesign jobs for mature employees.

Service buyers should choose socially responsible vendors when outsourcing, and essential services firms should transform jobs through innovation, for higher wages and better conditions.

And private sector players, or perhaps trade associations, could look at developing platforms to match high-skilled professionals with gig work in areas such as creative services or even accounting.

Firms can sign a Sustainable Employment Pledge to improve their practices accordingly, with 61 firms already on board.

Though some of these practices may seem obvious, it is still important to highlight them, Mr Teo told the media.

"Many people may be aware (that they should do this), at the back of their mind... But in this current economic environment, many companies are just thinking about survival," he noted. Yet having happy, committed workers is in fact key to economic survival and success, he said.

In line with the report and pledge, the SBF is setting up a programme office that will monitor progress, as well as organising programmes or actions for the like-minded companies that have come on board, said SBF chief executive officer Ho Meng Kit.

"In many ways, this report is a start, not an end," said Goh Swee Chen, chairman of the core committee behind the report. The hope is that by committing to the pledge, firms big and small can both improve their own processes and act as role models.

In a dialogue at the launch, guest of honour President Halimah Yacob said that it was unexpected for such a report to be produced by a business association rather than a workers' group, voluntary welfare organisation, or the government.

She commended the report as a good starting point, and noted the growing awareness that this concerns the survival of companies: "You cannot have a sustainable business without sustainable employment."

Asked if there were other groups of workers that deserved attention, she replied that although "sustainable employment must apply across the entire workforce", two other groups to consider are persons with disabilities, and women.

Work-life balance is also key for an employment ecosystem that is friendly, supportive, and sustainable, she added.