Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security and Chairman of the UWEEI Council of Advisors, Teo Chee Hean, at the UWEEI Annual Dinner 2019 on 30 August 2019.
“Seizing New Opportunities to Build A World-Class Electronics Hub and a Stronger Singapore”
Secretary General of NTUC, Ng Chee Meng,
Members of the NTUC Central Committee,
President of UWEEI, Fahmi Abu Bakar,
General Secretary of UWEEI, Tan Richard,
Executive Secretary of UWEEI, Melvin Yong,
UWEEI Council of Advisors,
Executive Council of UWEEI,
Brothers and Sisters,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Good evening. I am happy to join all of you once again at the UWEEI Annual Dinner.
This year’s gathering is particularly meaningful for me, as it is my 15th year serving as Chairman of UWEEI’s Council of Advisors. Over the years, I have witnessed UWEEI’s growth and its important role in promoting harmonious labour-management relations. The strong turnout tonight from the labour movement, our employers and government agencies reflects our strong spirit of tripartism, which has been a key competitive advantage for Singapore as we faced different challenges over the years. Our Electronics Industry Amidst An Uncertain Global Climate
Today, the world is once again at a crossroad. Growing trade tensions between the US and China have dampened global economic growth and is threatening to divide our region and the world. As a good friend of both the US and China, Singapore is concerned about these developments. We hope that these two major powers, who are good friends of ours, can overcome their differences, rebuild mutual confidence, and have a constructive relationship. But the issues between them are complex and deep-seated, and will take some time to resolve.
In the meantime, some countries may benefit in the short run from the diversion of trade, but if this continues, all of us will be worse off in the long run, be it from more barriers to trade, fractured production chains, or lower economic growth.
Here in Singapore, our economy has also slowed down. The weakening of global demand has impacted our manufacturing industry, including our electronics sector. Some of you have already felt the slower growth, with less orders coming in. The government and our unions are watching these developments closely. If the situation worsens significantly, we are ready to take swift and appropriate measures to sustain our economy and help our workers to maintain their livelihoods. Our electronics industry and the UWEEI family have weathered such ups and downs before. And I am confident that together, we will do so again.
When there is a “crisis” or “危机”, there is also “机会” – or opportunity. We can seize new opportunities in the current economic turbulence to move up the value chain and keep our electronics industry at the leading edge. We continue to see a strong pipeline of investments in our electronics sector – it is a testimony to our strong fundamentals, and the confidence of investors in Singapore and in our workers.
Today, I would like to talk about three key areas which UWEEI and the Government need to continue to focus on as we navigate the challenges ahead and as we work together with our employers, namely: Boosting Our Workers’ Employability, Supporting Our Families, and Strengthening Our Unity.
Working Together to Navigate Challenges
First, Boosting Our Workers’ Employability. UWEEI plays an important role in making sure that our workers have long-term rewarding careers. I am glad that UWEEI has actively engaged our companies to form Company Training Committees (CTCs), to identify the training and skills that our workers need to keep up with industry transformation, and to help our workers be trained in these key areas. I am glad that our companies have stepped forward too, not only to look after the workers but also in their own enlightened self-interest, so that they have motivated and loyal workers who will serve them for many more years as their company transforms. UWEEI has also been working with our Institutes of Higher Learning, in particular our polytechnics, to design specialised courses for the electrical and electronics sector. I am really delighted to have just witnessed the signing of an MOU between UWEEI and the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) for a similar collaboration to benefit all our members.
The Government will also continue to do our part. Through SkillsFuture, we have promoted lifelong-learning to help Singaporeans continuously pick up new skills to remain employable for life. But we need to do more. Singaporeans now have the highest health adjusted life expectancy in the world at nearly 85 years – even longer than Japan. As our workers live healthier and longer lives, they will want to work longer and we need to help them to continue working productively. In his National Day Rally two weeks ago, PM Lee spoke about our plans to raise the Retirement Age from 62 to 65; and the Re-employment Age from 67 to 70; and also to increase CPF contributions for older workers – in gradual steps by 2030. We will also implement a support package to help our employers adjust to these new arrangements, and to redesign their training, jobs and careers around the abilities and strengths of our older workers so that we can create a win-win-win outcome for everyone.
Second, Supporting Our Workers’ Families. Our family members are a part of our extended UWEEI family. Members who feel well-supported at home will also have more ease of mind and be more productive at the workplace. UWEEI offers Scholarships and Bursaries to members’ children who do well academically; and has various financial aid schemes to help those who face financial difficulty. I am glad that the proceeds from tonight’s dinner will be channelled towards these scholarships, bursaries and schemes. I thank all those who have contributed generously to this meaningful cause.
The Government will also continue to support families with children, from when they are toddlers, through to when they are in higher education. PM Lee has also just announced new measures to make preschool, post-secondary and higher education more accessible and affordable. In this way, we hope that all Singaporeans, regardless of their financial circumstances or family backgrounds, will have full opportunities to take advantage of what our education system offers - to be the best that they can be for themselves and for Singapore. We are creating more pathways to success that take into account the different strengths of our students from ITE, through Poly and University, in career-relevant programmes to suit both young and mature students. This will help prepare all our students and workers for the jobs of the future – whether it is in bio-tech, gaming, cybersecurity, aviation, hospitality and of course, the electronics industry. Through these initiatives, we hope to help more students reach their potential, regardless of their background and family circumstances.
We are also honouring and looking after our senior Singaporeans. The Pioneer Generation Package, introduced in 2015, benefits about 450,000 Singaporeans. The Merdeka Generation Package, which we introduced this year, benefits another 500,000 Singaporeans. Together, the Pioneer and Merdeka packages cover 950,000 Singaporeans, or nearly 1 million Singaporeans out of our 3.5 million citizens - or more than 1 of every 4 citizens. The packages directly and indirectly benefit almost every family in Singapore. This is a small gesture to thank all our Pioneers and the Merdeka Generation for helping to build Singapore.
Third, Strengthening Our Unity. Our unions have played a key role in promoting harmonious industrial relations, which has contributed to our economic progress and created good jobs for our workers over the years. We must continue to build upon this strong tripartite relationship and strengthen our social cohesion.
We do not have to look too far to understand why this is important. When we look around the world and our region today, it is sad to see many countries and territories, who we know well and are friends of ours, being affected by political instability, social conflict and violent clashes on the streets. There is lack of trust needed to build consensus, and uncertainty about their future. The situation in Hong Kong has been particularly sad and worrying.
Here in Singapore, we are fortunate to have unity, harmony and stability. This gives us the ability to plan for the future to meet the needs and aspirations of Singaporeans, and turn those plans into reality. In his National Day Rally speech, PM Lee talked about how we are planning way ahead for future generations, by preparing Singapore for climate change and rising sea levels for the next 100 years. There are not many countries in the world who can make such long-term plans.
A key element that has contributed to our stability and the ability to plan and implement for the long term, is the way we plan and prepare for leadership renewal. Since we became independent, we have had two smooth national leadership transitions.
The political transition to our 4G leadership is now underway. We have a strong team of 4G leaders, led by DPM Heng Swee Keat. He has asked Minister Chan Chun Sing, whom you know well from the labour movement, to be his deputy. We have a capable 4G team, with diverse skills and experience, who complement one another. Most importantly, they have their hearts in the right place. They want to work with you to shape our vision and plans for the future, and to turn these visions and plans into reality for you and for Singapore. I hope that all of you in our UWEEI family will also get to know them better, and work with them to build strengthen our unity and mutual trust to take Singapore forward.
Brothers and Sisters,
I am confident that with the solidarity and strength of UWEEI, our electronics sector will be able to continue to grow and meet the challenges ahead. The Government will support you every step of the way. Together, we can seize new opportunities, adapt and transform, in order to maintain Singapore’s leading edge as a world class electronics hub and continue to create good jobs for our workers into the future.
I wish UWEEI and our labour movement continued strength, solidarity and success. Thank you.
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