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Singapore puts new policies in place to help people displaced by AI

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

While most governments are talking about the issue of what happens when AI takes jobs from people Singapore is doing something, and it looks good.

 

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With companies like OpenAI saying that Artificial Intelligence (AI), in one form or another, could partially or fully automate around 80% of the world’s jobs world leaders are grappling with the problem of what happens if, or when, technology starts eating jobs for breakfast. And at least one government, Singapore who is almost always on the front foot with these things, now has an answer that doesn’t include the phrase Universal Basic Income (UBI) which has been touted as a popular potential solution.

 

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Earlier this month, after a series of large layoffs in the region by tech companies, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said that the Singapore government is developing a “temporary financial support scheme” in anticipation of further layoffs in the wake of technological changes.

This is a welcome development, said Karen Ng, regional head of expansion & market lead for Singapore, Hong Kong, ASEAN, India at payroll and compliance provider Deel.

 

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“The financial support scheme showcases the government’s commitment to workforce resilience and employability,” she said in an email to HRD.

“It can assist workers in overcoming the temporary burden associated with retrenchment and unemployment while considering the duration it takes to secure a new job and the availability of new job opportunities in the market. It can provide crucial assistance during this transitional period, and help affected individuals cope with the immediate financial impact of unemployment.”

 

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The announcement came as retrenchments in Singapore more than doubled in 2023, largely due to reorganisation or restructuring within firms.

The funding could also help those who lose their jobs build new skills so they can be prepared for new employment, said Ng.

“Beyond helping workers bridge the gap, it can also facilitate access to resources for reskilling and upskilling. Candidates can enhance their employability and secure employment in emerging industries by undertaking further education and training programs, broadening their prospects in today’s dynamic job market.”

 

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Singapore’s 2024 Budget also included measures for Singaporeans aged 40 and above that would include education subsidies and training allowances for those who enroll in selected full-time courses, noted Ng.

According to Udemy’s Q4 2023 Global Workplace Learning Index, more employees are leaning towards the utilization of generative AI skills, improvement of human skills, and seeking more certifications.

Wong recognised in his speech that some businesses and industries may be suffering even if the economy as a whole is doing well, especially with technological changes that can cause a stir in it.

Kathavarayan (Kat) Perumal Raju, a jobseeker hoping to land a senior engineering management role, also welcomed the funding Wong announced in Budget 2024.

 

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“The new scheme aims to assist retrenched workers during their training period or job search,” he said via LinkedIn.

“Another important source of good news is that Singapore has drawn $12.7b in fixed asset investments in 2023, which are set to create over 20,000 jobs. Now, that’s a promising sign of growth and opportunity on our doorstep as job seekers,” he said.

However, Ng said the Singapore government can do more to help those who lost their employment.

“In addition to the financial support and the upskilling programmes, another initiative that would be beneficial includes ensuring that displaced workers are informed on the current market trends, emerging industries, and in-demand skills so that they are able to make informed decisions on choosing their career paths and training options,” she said, which could be of invaluable help.

 

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“These measures could also be coupled with job placement services that include career counselling and job matching programs to increase the likelihood of successful placements.”

Singapore Budget 2024 also included measures to help employers create a more sustainable future.

In his speech, Wong said that he will extend the enhanced support for green loans under the Enterprise Financing Scheme, and expand its scope to help more of our SMEs adopt green solutions.

He also said that he will enhance the Energy Efficiency Grant, and extend the grant to more sectors, including manufacturing, construction, maritime and data centres and their users.

 

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“For companies operating in Singapore, the Budget offers a suite of measures designed to support business growth, enhance competitiveness, and facilitate a sustainable transition,” said David Stepat, country director for the Singapore office at Dezan, Shira & Associates, via ASEAN Briefing.

“It signals a conducive environment for company incorporation and expansion, underpinned by robust government support and a forward-looking economic strategy,” he added.

“Singapore’s Budget 2024 not only addresses immediate economic concerns but also sets the stage for long-term prosperity. It reflects a balanced approach to supporting businesses, empowering the workforce, and advancing sustainability, ensuring that Singapore remains at the forefront of global economic and environmental stewardship.”

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