Layoffs in modern-day economies have become more prevalent. With technology actively reshaping business processes, human talent has now become variable in business equations and often in places where the variable stands out, they are simply let go. And in the case of south-east Asian countries, a region with a significant working population, there has been no exception.
But although many have had similar problems dealing with layoffs not all countries in the region have been able to establish apt and timely responses to such problems. Something that Singapore with its well-developed labor market structure and proper market reforms has been able to achieve. According to recent government body report, over the past year, there have been hugely positive results in dealing with the problem of retrenchments.
According to the report, over 70 percent of Singaporean residents assisted by the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation found new jobs within six months after they were retrenched. That is seven in every ten laid off over the period of last one year were able to procure a job within the next six months.
The task force is a government agency set up in 2016 to provide timely and effective assistance to retrenched individuals. The current report of the first assessment of its efficacy in helping retrenched employees find their way back to employment opportunities. The task force, in addition to helping retrenched employees, finds the scope of new employment, is also tasked with ensuring employers treat their workers fairly if retrenchment is inevitable. This has proved to be a vital addition in an economy which has been distraught by tech reforms and changing global market scenarios in the past couple of years.
The task force is basically an amalgamation of different labor organization in Singapore. Led by Workforce Singapore (WSG) and comprising representatives from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute). As part of its efforts to provide a security net to employers letting go of their staff, the Taskforce is also mandated to increase the awareness among companies and individuals of the various support measures for retrenched employees that the Government of Singapore has put in place.
But with the release of its first assessment report, many believe that the Taskforce has been a vital addition in helping the Singaporean economy traverse a tumultuous period for its workforce. In a press release, the agency added that it had reached out to all retrenched workers whose contact details were available, in order to provide information on employment facilitation.
About one in four people contacted by the task force took up the offer of employment assistance, while those who did not give reasons such as “choosing to find employment on their own or taking a break from work”, the agency said. Its chairman, Tan Choon Shian, noted that mandatory retrenchment notifications, which took effect from Jan 1 last year, had given the taskforce “timelier and more complete information on retrenchments to help affected locals find new jobs”.
According to the Taskforce’s data, A total of 9,120 locals were retrenched from 1,247 companies last year. The majority of companies that had retrenchment exercises (about 90 percent) paid retrenchment benefits to eligible Singaporean employees last year. Among the remaining 10 percent, one key reason that benefits were not paid was that of the company's financial constraints. There were 74 cases of retrenchment-related disputes filed by employees last year, with the majority involving appeals over the quantum of retrenchment benefits. All 74 cases were resolved through mediation, adjudication or engagements with employers.
The following details were shared on the state of work by the task force:
- Briefings at the retrenching companies’ premises on the range of employment facilitation and career coaching help available.
- Matching of retrenched individuals with employers.
- Linking retrenched individuals to networking and job fairs.
- Providing further assistance through career matchmaking services at career centers, where retrenched individuals may sign up for workshops, receive job referrals and get career coaching.
For a country like Singapore that has traditionally depended much on western developed markets for its economic and job growth, changes in such markets are bound to impact how job structures in the domestically. Changing economic policies and the advent of AI and automation is to play a major role in the region in the coming decade. Reports have highlighted increasing skill mismatch in the region that is bound to aggravate the retrenchment and layoffs in the corporate sector. It is in such times the role of public institutions like the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation play a major role in ensuring labor markets are able to withstand such employment shocks and with the help of major skilling initiatives.