Parliamentary reply by Minister Indranee Rajah on Population Strategies and Emerging Stronger Taskforce Report
FOURTEENTH PARLIAMENT OF SINGAPORE
TUESDAY, 6 JULY 2021
Mr Pritam Singh:
To ask the Prime Minister whether the impact and disruption of COVID-19 has required the Government to review its population strategies so as to pivot the economy in concert with the recommendations of the Emerging Stronger Taskforce report.
Ms Indranee Rajah (for the Prime Minister):
The Government regularly reviews our population strategies to take into account changes to demographic trends, such as our birth rates and life expectancy. During the Committee of Supply debate in February this year, I shared with the House the impact of COVID-19 on key population trends in 2020, and the population strategies that will enable us to emerge stronger in the post-COVID world.
Our population and workforce strategies remain relevant in supporting the recommendations in the Emerging Stronger Taskforce (or EST) report.
First, Singaporeans continue to be at the heart of our population policies. We must sustain a strong core of Singaporeans in our population and workforce. Marriage and parenthood is a national priority. It is the best way to grow our citizen population and derive a strong local workforce to support our social and economic needs and sustain future generations of Singaporeans. We support Singaporeans’ aspirations to start and raise families through a comprehensive suite of support measures, including parental leave, childcare support, housing support and cash grants.
Second, we must continue to strengthen the capabilities of our local workforce, to ensure that Singaporeans have the skills to seize new economic opportunities. The EST report highlighted the acceleration of digital transformation and innovation, as well as new growth areas such as agritech and sustainability, which can provide good jobs for Singaporeans with the right skills. The Government will continue to partner businesses, trade associations and chambers, Institutes of Higher Learning, training providers, and unions to help our local workforce to upskill and reskill, to take on jobs of the future and make the most of the opportunities afforded by our economic strategies.
Third, even as we strengthen capabilities of our local workforce, we must continue to tap on global skills and manpower to complement the local workforce and augment skills that are in short supply locally. Some of the opportunities being developed by the EST Alliances for Action will generate new businesses that will need new capabilities and networks that foreign professionals can bring. This in turn will create more good jobs for Singaporeans. We will continue to refine our foreign workforce policy to bring in complementary foreign manpower, while ensuring fair hiring practices, preserving a level playing field for Singaporeans and enabling skills transfer to our people.
Next, improving productivity and reducing reliance on lower-skilled foreign workers will remain a key priority in our industry transformation efforts. We had made strides in raising productivity before the pandemic. From 2009 to 2019, Singapore’s overall labour productivity, as measured by real value-added per actual hour worked, grew 2.9 per cent per annum. We must build on these efforts. The EST report has emphasised ways in which our businesses can achieve productivity-driven growth through innovation, technology and better use of data. For instance, the Alliances for Action on Digitalising the Built Environment and Robotics are designed to spur productivity in industries like construction and transport.
Finally, we will continue to explore ways to harness the productive capacity of our senior population. As Singaporeans live and remain healthy for longer, we must enable senior workers to remain economically active and work for as long as they are able and wish to. This also allows workplaces to tap on the expertise and experience of our senior workers.
The Government will continue to monitor the longer-term impact of COVID-19 and how it affects our population trends. We will update our strategies to ensure that they remain relevant to our needs. We look forward to partnering Singaporeans and key stakeholders, including through the Singapore Together Alliances for Action, to emerge stronger together from the COVID-19 pandemic.