A series of programmes rolled out by the Singaporean government to help workers find new jobs are now under review following a request from the national parliamentary estimates committee that responsible ministries assess if they have been successful or not.

National initiatives to encourage and facilitate Singaporeans to acquire more expertise have included the introduction of tax benefits, educational training, business consulting and financial schemes such as wage support during in-company training, and one-time grants for small-and-medium sized businesses which implement certain HR processes.

Responses from the government to this re-evaluation are now beginning to emerge. One has focused on the ‘Adapt and Grow’ initiative launched in 2016, which aims to help match jobseekers in the professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) category with new skills amid softening economic conditions and ongoing restructuring.

The estimates committee, which is charged with examining the government’s budget and suggesting improvements, asked why some workers did not manage to find a job through Adapt and Grow, and if there was any follow-up on those cases.

The ministry of finance has now replied that Workforce Singapore (a wing of the ministry of manpower) and the Employment and Employability Institute (under the city state’s National Trades Union Congress) would continue to help registered jobseekers until they found a job, declined further assistance, or became uncontactable.

The committee also urged the government to find ways to let more Singaporeans know about the available schemes.

Leaving aside the current scrutiny, HR experts in the city-state think highly of the programmes and related policies. “In our opinion, the Singapore government has put in a considerable amount of effort and resources to partner with companies, training providers and other stakeholders to offer these programmes,” said Kishan Golyan, market intelligence specialist, Asia Pacific at The Adecco Group.

“The training participation rate [at 42 per cent for the 12 months ending June 2016 for the Singapore resident labour force aged 15 to 64] has reached an all-time high thanks to these initiatives being very comprehensive in terms of industry sectors covered, courses made available and support provided, both monetary and non-monetary, to companies as well as individuals,” he added.

Golyan said that looking at the data more closely, it became apparent that this is especially true for the PMET occupational group, which at 55 per cent forms the majority of the resident workforce, whereas training is less common among lower-skilled and seasonal workers.

“Those groups may lack the means and motivation for it and thus need further support and opportunity to reskill or upskill and be redeployed into better paying jobs in growing sectors,” Golyan said.

As to whether the Singapore government’s jobseeking programmes will be replicated by neighbouring Malaysia, whose labour market is closely intertwined with that of the city state, observers believe that the Malaysian government’s focus will remain on extending financial support to retrenched workers in the interim period rather than imparting them with new skills.

“Given Malaysia’s relatively low rate of unemployment, that is unlikely to reach an alarming level in the foreseeable future, the government is likely to remain focussed on ensuring financial security of the workforce rather than guaranteeing continued long-term employability,” said Saponti Baroowa, associate director, business intelligence, at the pan-Asian professional service firm Dezan Shira & Associates.

“The latter is something employers will increasingly have to take care of themselves anyway, as structural transformations and adoption of new technologies become increasingly imminent,” he added.

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