Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Singapore's productivity rates in 2012 not very positive: Tan Chuan-Jin

SINGAPORE: Singapore's productivity rates in 2012 have not been very positive, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin.

Employment has grown much faster than GDP over the same period.

Replying to a question in Parliament on Tuesday, he explained that Singapore's target of two to three per cent productivity growth per annum is a stretched target, as most developed economies achieve an average of one to two per cent productivity growth per annum.

But if Singapore is able to hit the upper end of this range over the long term, the country will be in a good position to achieve higher wages for all Singaporeans and remain competitive at the same time.

Hence, there is a need to press on with efforts to restructure the economy.

Mr Tan said companies need to reduce their reliance on manpower, and workers need to continue upgrading themselves so that they can take on the higher value-added jobs created.

Singapore must also persist in the gradual tightening of foreign worker policy.

Mr Tan said: "While we focus on implementing the various sectoral productivity strategies well, we are also mindful not to lose sight of the reason why we are embarking on this productivity drive in the first place.

"At the end of the day, what we want to achieve is better incomes and better living standards for all Singaporeans in a sustainable way. And we believe that increasing productivity is the right way to do so, without jeopardising Singapore's competitiveness and our workers' livelihood.

"Data has shown that this is the right strategy, as the real wages of our workers have risen broadly in line with productivity improvements over the long term."

Mr Tan also said that Singapore has committed significant resources to the productivity drive, and there are numerous government support schemes available for companies to tap on.

One common feedback from companies is that because of the large number of productivity schemes available, it is not easy for them to navigate through all of them and determine which scheme suits them best.

"This is a challenge that we need to address," said Mr Tan. "The best designed schemes with the best intentions are not very helpful if no one makes use of them."

Therefore, the government is working to improve the accessibility of productivity schemes so that companies can tap on the help more effectively.

While many programmes are still in their initial phases, Mr Tan said take-up rates have been encouraging.

He shared the example of a new iSPRINT scheme which helped 1,800 SMEs invest in info-comm technology such as accounting and payroll systems.

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