News & Updates

NTUC and SNEF brace workers and employers for tough times ahead

~ Urgent need to introduce transition support for displaced workers ~

6 February 2024
1. The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) held a joint media conference today to share insights on the economic and labour market outlook, as well as workers’ concerns for the year ahead. This is following data and observations where structural trends like automation, artificial intelligence and sustainability; and rising geopolitical tensions around the world, are leading to disruptions to international trades and global supply chains. The session was helmed by NTUC Secretary-General (SG) Ng Chee Meng, and President of SNEF Dr Robert Yap, ahead of the Budget Statement which will be delivered on 16 February 2024.

Tough year ahead for workers and businesses
2. At the media conference, SG Ng laid out some of the challenges that Singapore workers would face, particularly on their job security. He said, “It is going to be a tough year for our workers. We are already starting to see signs, particularly with retrenchment figures doubling up and wage growth stagnating or even declining. Many workers have shared with us their worries about losing their jobs and the rising cost of living.”

3. Dr Yap echoed SG Ng’s sentiments as the recent spate of retrenchment may cause workers to be worried. Dr Yap shared that employers would need to take bold steps to transform their businesses amidst the different challenges posed by digital disruptions, geo-political tensions and the need to stay competitive and sustainable.

Job insecurity amongst workers intensified as retrenchments continue to rise

4. In NTUC’s annual Survey on Economic Sentiments, conducted from December 2023 to January 2024, close to 2,000 respondents across different worker segments and ages shared their views on job security. In general, job insecurity amongst workers has intensified, with almost 40 per cent of Singaporean workers feeling that they were likely to lose their jobs in the next three months1. This figure has risen by almost two-fold, as compared to a similar NTUC survey conducted in 2023, where 25 per cent indicated likelihood of losing their jobs2. In a separate poll from Budget 2024 engagements by NTUC with close to 185 workers, 31 per cent felt that structural trends such as automation, AI and sustainability will threaten their jobs3. At the same time, while 47 per cent of workers felt that these trends would lead to the creation of other jobs, they recognised the potential of job displacement too.

5. SNEF shared that while Singapore’s economy is expected to grow by one to three per cent in 2024, the labour market remains tight4. Dr Yap added that, “While workers are worried about their jobs, employers still have job vacancies which could impede business growth if they remain vacant. The local workforce will need to continually upskill, so that they can better match the needs of employers. Doing so will address the challenges faced by both employers and workers.”

Providing support for workers amid uncertain times
6. In anticipation of job security concerns, NTUC has developed programmes and initiatives to equip workers with the necessary skills and resources to remain employable. For instance, over 1,700 Company Training Committees have been formed as of 31 October 2023, impacting over 123,000 workers.

7. Additionally, NTUC also proposed several recommendations following the year-long #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations to call for better support for five key worker segments – youth, mid-career workers, caregivers, older workers and vulnerable workers. In the months to come, NTUC will also have more outreach efforts to keep workers on the ground informed of the challenges and issues that they may be facing this year. NTUC will also continue to engage with workers to develop additional support measures to help alleviate anxieties surrounding job security.

8. NTUC sees an urgent need to provide stronger support for displaced workers. Some form of transition support either in the form of financial support or upskilling will be critical and essential to helping affected workers so that they get back onto their feet as quickly as possible. NTUC also hopes to enhance support for caregivers and older workers through flexible work arrangements which will help workers juggle work and family commitments.

Workers should join NTUC as members, employers to work with SNEF
9. Noting the uptrend in retrenchments for the year ahead, SG Ng expressed his concerns and said, “It does look like it will be a tougher year ahead. The projected retrenchment numbers for 2024 seem to be on the increase. Workers on the ground are also telling us that they are more anxious about job security and in our NTUC 2024 economic survey, 40% of working people have expressed anxieties that they may lose their jobs this year. Given the lingering pressures of the cost of living, we understand our workers’ anxieties. So in the year ahead, we hope that there can be pro-active action to support our workers, especially if they are displaced. We should think about a transition support package, in the form of financial upskilling/reskilling support for displaced persons seeking new opportunities in a more challenging environment. Ultimately, we want to let all Singaporeans know that NTUC wants to be alongside you in this journey. We care deeply about your lives and livelihoods, and we hope to partner with workers of all classes, whether you are rank-and-file or Professionals, Managers, Executives (PMEs), young or old, man or woman.”

10. Dr Yap said, “SNEF will continue to support employers to transform their business boldly and responsibly so that they can bring their employees along their transformation journey. At the same time, SNEF encourages workers to be adaptable and resilient by continuing to reskill and upskill in order to seize new job opportunities and grow in their career.”

11. In the upcoming Budget 2024 Debate from 26 to 28 February 2024, the Labour Members of Parliament (LMPs) and Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) will be sharing their views on various worker-related concerns and issues and advocating for their needs in the increasingly uncertain socio-political and economic climate.

1 NTUC’s 2024 Survey on Economic Sentiments, Dec 2023 – Jan 2024, n=1,922 (employed workers)
2 NTUC’s 2023 Survey on Economic Sentiments, Dec 2022 – Jan 2023, n=964 (employed workers; out of total sample size of 1,000)
3 Polls from Budget 2024 Engagements, n=184 responses
4 Labour Market Advance Release Fourth Quarter 2023

Translated Terms

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) 全国职工总会 (职总)

Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF)

新加坡全国雇主联合会

Ng Chee Meng
Secretary-General, NTUC

黄志明
全国职工总会 秘书长

Robert Yap
President, SNEF

叶进国
新加坡全国雇主联合会 会长

Company Training Committee (CTC)

企业培训委员会

 

About National Trades Union Congress (NTUC)
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) is a national confederation of trade unions as well as a network of professional associations and partners across all sectors in Singapore. NTUC’s objectives are to help Singapore stay competitive and working people remain employable for life; to enhance the social status and well-being of our members and working people; and to build a strong, responsible and caring labour movement. NTUC’s vision is to be an inclusive labour movement for all collars, ages and nationalities. NTUC is at the heart of the Labour Movement, which comprises 58 affiliated unions, seven affiliated associations, 11 social enterprises, six related organisations as well as a growing ecosystem of professional associations and enterprise partners. For more details, visit www.ntuc.org.sg.

About Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF)
The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) is a trade union of employers. Our mission is to advance tripartism and enhance labour market flexibility to enable employers to implement responsible employment practices for sustainable growth. SNEF has a membership of over 3,500 companies with a combined workforce of over 800,000. For more information, please visit www.snef.org.sg.