Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say spoke on the current and future social and economic impact of an ageing and shrinking population, coupled with immigration, at the annual Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum on 14 March at University Town.
The forum titled “Singapore’s Changing Demographics – Maintaining a Thriving Economy with a Diversified Workforce” was organised by the NUS Students’ Political Association (NUSPA) and attended by some 150 students and guests.
Singapore has a total workforce of approximately 3.3 million — two thirds of this made up of citizens and permanent residents — and is experiencing falling GDP growth and total employment growth.
“Over the next 10 years, the growth of our local workforce will continue to slow down and by the time we reach 2025, which is less than 10 years from now, our local workforce growth will be zero; we’re heading for stagnation. So by then everyone joining the workforce will be offset by someone retiring from the workforce,” said Mr Lim.
To continue to have a thriving economy in such a scenario, Mr Lim explained the need to break the manpower and productivity bottlenecks. This would entail striving towards a more manpower-lean economy with a reduced growth of 1 per cent, while aiming for a 2 per cent gain in productivity, which together would result in a 3 per cent GDP growth.
“You may say that this is still less than the 4 per cent growth we used to enjoy. Yes, but the 3 per cent growth will be of better quality because the 4 per cent growth was driven by manpower increase, whereas the 3 per cent will hopefully come more from the productivity gain. This is our way forward,” he said.
For this to happen, he added that all sectors of the economy must be transformed by embracing technology to create high-value jobs, as well as encouraging innovation, creativity and skills upgrading of the local workforce.
Mr Lim also announced that the government will be introducing a one-stop online marketplace later this year to make it easier for job seekers to be matched with suitable employers.
Engaging students in a dynamic Question and Answer session moderated by NUSPA’s Creative Director Rachel Kuo, Mr Lim touched on the need to be prepared for multiple careers and to remain employable. He also responded to questions regarding the skills needed for the future and industries with good prospects, saying that it would be wise to be adept in high-technology or high-touch sectors, or to serve as a link between the two.
Ending on a positive note, Mr Lim said, “I can assure you we will make sure that there is enough good career opportunities for everyone, that’s our job...but who will end up in which career, I think a lot depends on you. If you’re flexible and adaptable and hopefully passionate about what you do, I’m sure your future will be a bright one.”
The Forum is a flagship event of NUSPA, providing NUS students with the opportunity to engage prominent political figures in dialogue on important national and international issues.