The management of Singapore's labour market

Leggett, Chris (2010) The management of Singapore's labour market. In: Proceedings of the 10th Annual Pacific Employment Relations Association Conference (1) pp. 79-90. From: 10th Annual Pacific Employment Relations Association Conference, 15 - 18 November 2010, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia.

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The theme of this paper is how Singapore's labour market is managed ─ by the government in partnership with its protégé trade union movement and within the tri-partnership that includes the employers' federation, to accommodate adverse economic conditions, such as the recent global financial crisis. In 1960, the People's Action Party government committed Singapore to industrialisation through multinational corporate investment in labour absorbing manufacturing, but on becoming an independent city state in 1968, it faced the prospect of high unemployment, due to its secession from the Federation of Malaysia and the planned withdrawal of the British military bases. At the time, Singapore had few assets other than its labour market potential, its resolute political leaders, and advice from a former UN economist. The government and the National Trades Union Congress took measures to make Singapore's labour force more attractive to multinational investors and, in the event, Singapore experienced a labour shortage by the late 1970s. Consequently, the government initiated a political and social reconstruction of the labour market to one able to serve a high technology, high value added economy. Facilitated by the adoption of manpower planning', by the late 1990s, Singapore was on the way to meeting its aspiration to become a world talent capital, but, as well as upgrading the skills of Singaporean workers, the transition has led to the country's increased dependence on foreign workers, both semi-skilled and unskilled and professional.

The government's management of Singapore's labour market has enabled Singapore to weather several economic crises: those induced by downturns in the world or regional economy, such as the 1997 Asian financial crisis, to which the country's global status makes it vulnerable, and those arising from events such as the outbreak in 2008 of severe acute respiratory syndrome. In times of crisis the resident labour market of Singapore citizens and permanent residents has been cushioned by the retrenchment of 'non-resident' foreign workers, a cushioning that has enabled the government to maintain its preference for employment growth over labour protection.

This paper predicts that given the stability and continuity of Singapore's political leadership and its commitment to labour market development, Singapore will continue its current policies and make strategic labour market responses to such global threats and opportunities as arise. In particular, the policies and responses will continue to address the issues of ageing, workforce subsidy, and the employment of foreign labour while maintaining the pace of the transition to a knowledge-based economy.

Item ID: 17172
Item Type: Conference Item (Research - E1)
ISBN: 978-1-876851-42-2
Keywords: labour market, management, employment relations, Singapore
Date Deposited: 25 Jul 2011 00:41
FoR Codes: 14 ECONOMICS > 1402 Applied Economics > 140211 Labour Economics @ 100%
SEO Codes: 91 ECONOMIC FRAMEWORK > 9199 Other Economic Framework > 919999 Economic Framework not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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