Screenshot of Lim Swee Say from Facebook video

Speaking to graduates of Republic Polytechnic, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say told the students that there is no shortage of jobs in Singapore and that the problems lie with shortage of skills among Singaporeans. The ruling party PAP Minister blame “mismatch of skills” for retrenchments and rising unemployment rate:

“A shortage of skills, not a shortage of jobs, could cause unemployment to rise in Singapore… This is a challenging time, with technology changing the nature of jobs at a much faster pace than before, and increasing the risk of redundancies. Yet while technology and artificial intelligence may take over many jobs, others – from data analytics and cyber security, to robotisation engineering – will be created as we transit into the future world of Smart Factory, Lean Hotel, Autonomous Vehicle and Digital Service… For us to truly succeed, we have to help our people to adapt better too”. Otherwise, the mismatch between jobs and skills will widen further as we run faster.”

The PAP Minister on the MR1 salary grade of S$1.76 million a year, who has only worked in the civil service in his entire 44-year career then advised how to succeed in the “innovative economy”:

“Whether you will do well in the innovative economy of the future, depends not just how competent and capable you are today, but also how passionate you are, how adaptable you will be in future.”

Singapore’s unemployment rate is currently at its 7-year-high at 3.2%. Earlier during the May Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong openly admitted that his government has ran out of ideas to alleviate the rising unemployment rate and hinted that the figure will “creep up”.

In response to the rising unemployment rate, the Singapore government is only looking to a nation-wide skills training campaign, SkillsFuture, for solution. Each Singaporean was given S$500 SkillsFutures credit for training courses. However, the SkillsFuture is met with poor response because most poor and middle income workers do not have the luxury of time to attend training courses on a 44-hour work week.

Read: Poor busted for cashing in on SkillsFuture credits

SkillsFuture courses are mostly short-term crash training that takes up only a day or a few evenings in a month. None of the certificates issued by SkillsFuture courses are recognised as decent qualifications by employers, especially overseas employers. Some courses cost as much as S$6,000, with the amount less subsidy to be paid in cash – raising questions whether if the actual intent of the SkillsFuture credit is to divert national taxes into profits for the government education institutions. Despite starting the SkillsFuture campaign 3 years ago since 2014, the government campaign has saw lacklustre responses from the public. The empirical evidence of unemployment rate continue to soar despite the government’s self-proclaimed “success”.

The SkillsFuture is particularly met with poorest response from the retiree group, aged 65 and above, who are mostly working as cleaners and security guards. A majority of the elderly begrudge that there is no point in attending training courses when they do not even understand English. Elderly poverty jumped 74.3% between 2012 and 2015, and more continue to be left behind as employers refuse to increase salaries beyond the bare minimum legislated by the Progressive Wage Model scheme.

Read: Poverty in Singapore reached worst ever, jumped 43.45% in 3 years