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Bertha HarianBertha Harian

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Being productive – at work and in bed

Go buy BT. The newspaper highlighted a particular number while the rest of us were moaning and groaning about the 7m population projection for 2030. And that number relates to that oft-heard word – productivity. Of the business kind, not the baby kind.

The question asked: What if Singapore cannot make the “ambitious stretch target of 2 to 3 per cent productivity growth?

The White Paper says this: “As our economy matures, we will have to sustain a pace of growth compatible with our changing demographics. Up to 2020, if we can achieve 2% to 3% productivity growth per year (which is an ambitious stretch target), and maintain overall workforce growth at 1% to 2%, then we can get 3% to 5% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per year  from 2020 to 2030.

So the more realistic – and expected – situation is this: “With workforce growth slowing to about 1% per year, and productivity growth moderating to 1% to 2% as our economy matures and undergoes major demographic shifts, we may see GDP growth of between 2% and 3% per year from 2020 to 2030.’’

Businesses agree with that the lower growth rate is more realistic. A whole ton of incentives are being hurled at SMEs to upgrade and re-skill its workers, and it’s time to see how well they are taking to it. If not, then the question is why: Too many rules and regulations to comply with? Not enough awareness?

Businesses say they need more foreign workers or they will be forced to re-locate. In fact, ST spent a whole lot of space on them moaning and groaning about the lack of manpower. Hmm. I thought they were already primed for this. But one economist said that further tightening is on the cards since the projections in the White Paper mean that growth in the labour force will be about 70,000 a year, down from 100,000 or so last year.  

What can we expect to see then? Lower level industries forced to move out (maybe that’s the point), fewer foreign workers in the beginning while Singaporeans get retrenched and retrained for higher-level jobs? Then the foreigners come back in to take on jobs Singaporeans won’t want to do by then since most of them are PMETs?

Here’s what an earlier National Population Talent Report says: We project that by 2030, 250,000 to 300,000 Work Permit holders will be needed in construction (250,000 in 2011), 28,000 foreigners in healthcare (13,000 in 2011), and 300,000 as foreign domestic workers (198,000 in 2011).

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As for new industries being set up or expanded, the Paper highlighted legal services and accounting services are probable boom areas.

Okay, lecture over.

What I really want to know is this. What is the impact on me if economic growth is 2 to 3 per cent a year, instead of 3 to 5 per cent? How will this affect our living conditions, cost of living, standard of living? Maybe if we can paint the different scenarios at the end, everybody will be more inclined to buck up and produce better-quality work – or more babies.   


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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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