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Concerted Actions Needed to Support Manpower Needs of Services Industries

Thursday, 12 May 2022 [Singapore] –The Singapore Business Federation (SBF) published a manpower policy paper today recommending nine action steps to support the manpower needs of the Lifestyle Services, Environmental Services, and Estate & Facilities Management(EFM)Services industries. Titled, “The Human Touch: Balancing Manpower Resilience with Productivity for Transformation”, the policy paper outlines ways in which key stakeholders, including businesses, trade associations and chambers (TACs), government agencies, unions, and post-secondary educational institutions (PSEIs), can work together in partnership to address the manpower challenges faced by the Services industries.

The re-opening of borders and resumption of tourism, social, and business activities is an opportunity for companies in the Services industries to scale up and tap on the demand resurgence for growth. Over the past two years, businesses in food services, retail, hotels, nightlife, waste management, cleaning, security, landscaping, and other facilities upkeep services have weathered the pandemic by pivoting their operations and pressing on with digitalisation and transformation efforts, and are positioned to emerge.

Developed in close consultation with TACs, namely the Environmental Management Association of Singapore (EMAS), Landscape Industry Association (Singapore) (LIAS), Restaurant Association of Singapore (RAS), Security Association Singapore (SAS), Singapore Hotel Association (SHA), Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA), Singapore Retailers Association (SRA), and Waste Management and Recycling Association of Singapore (WMRAS), the policy paper underscores three critical success factors required for these sectors to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth: (A) Talent – a diverse pool of players and intentional line- up selection, (B) Teamwork – a synergistic effort to improve manpower utilisation and allocation, and (C) Rules – A more targeted and nuanced manpower policy.

Among the nine key actions detailed under the three critical success factors, SBF and the TACs are advocating for:

  1. Tripartite Partners to actively coordinate the redeployment of workforce from pandemic-related operations to Lifestyle Services. As the demand for temporary jobs relating to the enforcement of Safe Management Measures tapers, there is scope for workers to be intentionally re-directed to the Lifestyle Services with close coordination between the agencies hiring these workers and NTUC’s e2i, and businesses tapping on various government schemes to offer good jobs in adjacent customer-facing.
  2. TACs to facilitate cross-sector collaboration to achieve higher operational efficiency and better resource allocation. The retail- logistics nexus is an opportunity for win-win arrangements to optimise manpower requirements for warehousing and fulfilment functions, as well as infrastructure requirements to facilitate the last-mile delivery This is a better use of resource as compared to every retailer attempting to recruit and manage its own in-house logistics team. Another opportunity area is the built environment-EFM nexus where tighter coordination of infrastructure design and planning can facilitate the automation of labour-intensive EFM tasks, thus streamlining the deployment of EFM staff.
  3. Tripartite Partners to work together to review the broad classifications of business activity for the Services sector, expansion of Non-Traditional Source (NTS) Occupation List for Work Permit holders, and diversification of NTS countries. With the shrinking pool of new entrant Singaporeans willing to work in these sectors every year, foreign manpower supplements are necessary to meet the demands for such services, even with ongoing efforts to transform the sectors and redesign jobs. The current Services sector classification, which also includes knowledge-intensive sectors such as finance and insurance, ICT, and professional services, is too broad and does not reflect labour market dynamics faced by the various Services sub-sectors. A more nuanced classification of business activity, particularly for Services is required so that differentiated policy interventions can be applied to address specific manpower.
Please refer to Annex A for the full list of key actions detailed in the paper. The policy paper can be downloaded via www.sbf.org.sg/images/SBF_Manpower_Policy_Paper.pdf

As the Singapore economy gains a firmer footing towards recovery and growth, stakeholders are aligned on the need to work together to position our businesses and economy to tap on the opportunities TACs in the Lifestyle Services, Environmental Services, and EFM Services are working closely with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Enterprise Singapore (ESG), Singapore Tourism Board (STB), Workforce Singapore (WSG), SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and NTUC on targeted initiatives and policy enhancements to address the tight manpower situation, which has impacted operations, service levels and waiting times. There is an urgent need to recalibrate manpower supply in the Services industries to enable companies to operate at optimal capacity, so as to deliver the level of service that Singaporeans and visitors expect. Addressing the manpower crunch will also help companies to plan ahead for growth and transformation.

SBF CEO Mr Lam Yi Young said, “To maintain Singapore’s reputation as an efficient and vibrant business and leisure destination of choice, the Services industries need access to suitable and sufficient manpower to support their operations and Even as they double down on automating processes and redesigning jobs, businesses still need to be able to recruit and retain sufficient local and foreign manpower. SBF is happy to be able to work with fellow TACs to put together this policy paper. We look forward to working with fellow TACs, our member companies, NTUC and government agencies to follow-up on the key actions outlined in the paper.”

RAS President Mr Andrew Kwan said, “The Lifestyle Services welcome the decisive move towards re-opening and living with As businesses take concerted efforts to improve our employment proposition to attract talent, near-term labour shortages must be addressed in order for operations to resume and scale up. In the longer-term, manpower policies will need to reflect the changing structure of the resident labour force with the growing affluence of households and higher educational qualifications of the younger workforce. The Lifestyle Cluster will continue to work with key stakeholders to strengthen opportunities and efforts to attract those outside the labour force.”

SRA President Mr Ernie Koh said, “Businesses recognise that transformation is an imperative to flourish in the post-pandemic world. The accelerated adoption of technology and digitalisation solutions have been instrumental in allowing businesses to survive and capture new opportunities in the last two years. Strengthening cross- sector collaboration and optimising resource utilisation will allow businesses in the retail sector to respond to the changes in consumption and purchasing patterns, and transform for."

SHA President Ms Kwee Wei-Lin said, “As inbound travel recovers with the help of streamlined safe management measures, we are in a strong position to promote Singapore as a top travel destination for business and leisure. In the past two years, the hospitality industry has been relentless in improving productivity whilst supporting the quarantine needs of the nation. The industry needs quality manpower to maintain the best service standards and experiences for Singapore to remain a destination of."

WMRAS Chairman Ms Melissa Tan said, “The Environmental and EFM Services underpin all aspects of public health, safety and security, but often operate out of sight and out of mind. As industries that play critical roles in Singapore’s green transition, we are committed to transforming for a greener and more sustainable While the industry continues to attract Singaporeans to sustainability and technology related jobs, we continue to need manpower in the rank-and-file jobs such as waste collection and sorting, and facilitative manpower policies will enable businesses to operate at capacity and serve the needs of the nation.”

Annex A: Full List of Key Actions in the Paper

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