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10 Feb 2010

Vol.7 (En)

Singapore's Economic Strategies Committee (ESC)

In Pursuit Of Optimising Singapore's Limited Resources And Maximizing Growth Opportunities.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong set up the Singapore's Economic Strategies Committee (ESC) in May 2009, while Singapore was in the depths of its worst recession, in pursuit of optimising the use of Singapore's limited resources and maximizing growth opportunities.
After almost 10 months of deliberations, the committee made up of public and private sector chiefs, has recommended fundamental change and has set the target for Singapore to reach 2 to 3 per cent productivity growth, a bold ambition compared to its dismal 1 per cent achieved over the last 10 year.

Part of its 46-page report submitted by ESC is focused on encouraging companies to rely more on technology and innovation to drive productivity gains. Some of the key recommendations to enhance the skill level of Singapore's workforce to achieve higher productivity include setting up a national productivity council and fund, increasing foreign worker levies and raise quality of foreign workforce in Singapore, and to enhance workfare for low-wage workers.

The committee's proposal also included some ideas to on how to innovate the economy. It suggested for Singapore to focus on funding research and development, increasing its budget for R&D to 3.5 per cent by 2015. In aim to support local businesses, it recommended the government to invest up to $1.5 billion in promising Singapore-based SMEs, with the target to achieve 1000 local companies with global sales of $100 million. The proposal also conceived the idea to implement an export-import ("exim") bank to help expand these companies abroad.

Some other unique and unprecedented initiatives highlighted in the proposal included the idea of importing electricity from overseas, and to consider the use of coal or nuclear power. It also identified Tanjong Pagar as a site for the new waterfront city, and suggested to "expand" Singapore by exploring new ways to use underground land.

Singapore's Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP)

In Pursuit Of Fair & Equal Employment, Resulting In Lesser Discriminatory Job Advertisements

The Singapore's Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) was established in May 2006 comprising of officials from unions, the Government and employers that aim to promote fair employment practices in Singapore. Since its startup, the number of companies that pledged to fair employment practice has steadily increased from 287 in 2006 to 1001 in 2008 and 1221 in 2009. As a result, the annual proportion of job advertisement in the print media with discriminatory implications (ie. Newspaper job advertisement citing non job-related specification of race, age, gender or other preferential characteristics) have declined from 19.7 per cent in 2006 to 1.7 per cent in 2008 to just 1 per cent in 2009.

TAFEP General Manager Mr Andrew Fung attributed this to the increased awareness among Singapore employers on the need to recruit on a fair and meritorious basis. Another contributing factor comes from newspaper companies who have agreed to assist by vetting through the classified ads with reference to TAFEP guidelines. TAFEP's Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices state that recruitment processes should not discriminate against applicants based on age, race, gender, marital status, religion or language. They also advise employers on the appropriate way to phrase job-application forms and to interview candidates. TAFEP will increase its efforts in 2010 by developing research and training for employers on how to manage older workers.

Jason Electronics started adopting TAFEP's guidelines a year ago and has improved its human resource practices, such as revising its job- application forms to exclude age. It's Chief Human-Resource officer Mr Ooi Chee Kong, 42, highlighted that "if we continue to hire based on discriminatory dimensions, we'll deprive ourselves of a potential pool of talent". Now, 25 per cent of Jason's staff are aged 40 and above, and consist of people from more territories, such as Britain and Hong Kong. Previously, their staff were only Singaporeans, permanent residents or Malaysians. Mr Ooi noted that hiring based on merit has helped benefited his company's reputation as a good employer, and it also enabled them to attract the best talent.

Apart from carrying out promotional activities such as media publicity and events to enhance the awareness of fair employment practices, TAFEP also aims to provide advisory services and to organise regular training workshops and seminars to equip employers and HR practitioners with the knowledge and strategies to implement fair employment practices. TAFEP also collates feedback from employers and members of the public on how best to promote fair employment and share information on best practices amongst employers.