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NEWS UPDATES 22 July 2010

Singapore plan to increase wages

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Singapore's National Employers Federation (SNEF) sees the additional 100,000 foreign workers this year as a one-off phenomenon, according to Channel news Asia.

This is because the federation believes Singapore will not experience double digit economic growth in the next few years like the one projected for 2010.

Singapore's Trade and Industry Ministry estimates this year's economy to grow between 13 and 15 percent.

The Singapore National Employers Federation has been focused on saving jobs in four of the major recessions the country has faced since 1980.

It was achieved with the help of unions, government and employers.

Stephen Lee, president, SNEF, says: "I have seen the improvement in the closeness and growth in confidence and trust between the three parties. Today tripartism is really at a new high compared to what it was 10 - 20 years ago. They do listen to the employers concerns, because the employers provide the jobs.

"The last recession affected all exporting countries. So with that we work with the tripartite partners and the main thrust was how to cut costs and save jobs. From the workers side, NTUC accepted all sorts of flexible arrangements, shorter work week, temporary lay offs because the companies' order books were not full."

Mr. Lee says that SNEF's major task was to convince employers to continue to hold on their workers at least for a immediate future and then the government came in with incentive packages.

"The jobs credit was very useful and since we were having excess workers, to put them to good use and used SPUR to train them. So while we had one eye on the recession we were also looking at the upturn. Then it turned out that the upturn was stronger than we expected."

Their efforts have paid off.

Workers are getting wage increases and bonuses while employers are clamouring for more workers including foreign workers.

As a result, employers say the impact of the rise in the foreign workers levy starting this month, has been manageable.

Mr. Lee comments: "We can increase the numbers in the workforce to capture the business and then we can adjust from there on. In the short term, the concern is to get enough people to work, the concern is less on costs. But if you push up the costs too high, then it will come back to worry us later on."

He adds that the Economic Strategies Committee's target of increasing real wages by 30 percent in the next 10 years is achievable. But it should be coupled with a two to three per cent annual increase in productivity during the same period.

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