Could we Learn Lessons from Singapore about the Future of Work?

Posted by Alberto Fascetti on May 21, 2019 11:18:44 PM


singapore- Marina bay.jpg

Have you heard of ‘second-skilling’? Essentially, it’s the process of developing your skills for a new job whilst you’re still working.

Singapore is giving its citizens a training budget of S$500 for skills development of their choice via its SkillsFuture programme. It enables Singaporeans to stay employed and remain flexible for new opportunities. Let’s find out more about this innovative scheme...

Singapore shines

From an historically high unemployment rate during the 1960s, Singapore has completely turned the tables and its unemployment now stands at around 2%; one of the lowest rates in the world.

Singapore’s schools sit near the top of international league tables and its per-person gross domestic product is 321% of the global average. Singapore is clearly thriving on many fronts.

Yet, it also grapples with the problem shared by Australia and other nations – how to deal with an aging workforce and secure its economic future?

Developing career resilience

Like many other developed countries, Singapore’s workforce mostly consists of professionals, executives and managers. Rapid digital growth means the threat of job obsolescence looms on the horizon for many.

People are questioning the future of work and there is pressure to get to grips with new processes, equipment, software and methods of communication.

Our modern workforce evolves constantly - lifelong learning is a necessity for most careers these days, no matter what age you are.

Talking to, Patrick Tay, a member of Singapore’s national parliament and government official helping to develop career resilience strategies, said:

“We need to redesign our jobs, and we need to ‘upskill’ people to take on these new jobs. Everyone has to play a role in this - the worker, the employer, the government, and, in the greater scheme of things, society itself.”


Singapore’s solution to this dilemma is ‘second-skilling’. Patrick Tay realised that developing your skills in other sectors is vital for career agility and flexibility. It broadens your options for future work opportunities. It can open up new pathways, or complement the work that you already do.

Singapore is investing in this new training concept. Every Singaporean aged 25 and older receives S$500 (approximately $500 AUD) for their choice of skills training through the SkillsFuture programme.

SkillsFuture credit can be used to enrol on a wide range of approved training courses and can be used for anything an employee wishes to learn – not just for skills relevant to their current role.

Second-skilling gives workers the choice to pursue their passions, gain skills in future growth areas or build on their existing skills. 


Shared goals for a successful society

This vision for the future of work has come to fruition thanks to Singapore’s system of ‘tripartism’ – an agreement for employers, government and unions to work together. Everyone has a shared responsibility for Singapore’s continued success.

Patrick Tay added, “Tripartism is not new - it’s been in existence for a long time under the international labor organization framework. But I think Singapore has its own unique blend. We’re one of the few countries that has employers, government and unions conversing in the same room. We have one major shared goal, which is to grow the economic cake. We all realize we should not be coming at matters with the sense of who gets the bigger slice or the bigger crumb.”

Second-skilling is certainly an inspiring concept. Could Australia benefit from a similar scheme to combat our aging population and secure our future as an innovation nation? We’d love to hear your views...

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