What is Sustainable Employment?

Sustainable Employment involves purposeful action by companies to cultivate their workforce for present and future needs. Thriving employees that are confident in their contribution and value to their workplace are fundamental to a vibrant economy and inclusive society.

As technological advancement transforms industries, good jobs gain productivity whereas others become obsolete. A study by economic forecasting agency Oxford Economics and technology company Cisco in 2018 to determine the impact of artificial intelligence on workers in six Southeast Asian economies predicted that by 2028, 20.6% of Singapore’s full-time workforce could have their jobs displaced, a percentage that is significantly higher than Vietnam (13.6%), Thailand (11.9%), the Philippines (10.1%), Indonesia (8.1%) and Malaysia (7.4%).

The study further revealed that as a result of Singapore’s digital transformation, some 85,000 existing roles may eventually disappear, pushing displaced workers into other industries and vocations. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this phenomenon, as companies are driven to build up digital infrastructure as well as human capital and skillsets to emerge stronger in the post-COVID world.

As a result of these developments, vulnerable groups of employees are even more exposed to job displacement. These include the Professional, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs), in particular those in sunset industries, low-wage workers who often face multi-faceted stressors at work and at home, as well as mid-career and mature workers who may find adjusting to the new normal challenging.

Business leaders play a pivotal role in supporting their employees, especially the more vulnerable, through job redesign and skills upgrading by leveraging the suite of programme and schemes offered by both the public and private sector.

Why pursue Sustainable Employment?

Socially conscious and responsible companies have consistently enjoyed long-term performance. Engaged employees are productive, motivated, and committed. The value of attracting and retaining talent in an increasingly borderless workplace cannot be understated. Caring for the workforce also facilitates the retention of vital human capital and widens the pool of workers that can be tapped on for business growth and meet the needs of our economy. In a global environment where competition for talent is growing, companies that adopt sustainable employment practices and policies build a stronger case for talent attraction and retention.

Companies taking early action to re-imagine and rethink workplace policies and practices for Singapore’s growing pool of PMETs and mature workers will be well placed to overcome the constraints associated with a silvering population. Likewise, businesses that are committed to creating better career pathways for blue collar job roles through job redesign and leveraging technology will be in a stronger position to expand and ride the wave of recovery in the coming years. Uplifting workers in such roles may also have wider societal benefits as the workers may then be able to expand their core capabilities, command higher wages with their enhanced skillsets, and enjoy an improved quality of life.

As businesses form the backbone of Singapore’s workforce and the economy, purposeful action by businesses is critical to creating a skilled and productive workforce, as well as a strong socio-economic structure enriched through enterprise and work. At its core, Sustainable Employment serves to strengthen the very environment that companies need in order to succeed, and espouses the unique role of business as a force for good.

The Sustainable Employment Pledge

Last year, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) unveiled a special report titled Sustainable Employment – Achieving Purposeful Business Success Together. A by-business-for-business initiative, the report called on businesses to step up efforts on the upskilling and reskilling of PMETs as well as redesigning jobs with the needs and strengths of mature workers in mind.

The Sustainable Employment Pledge initiated by SBF serves to affirm the commitment of businesses towards sustainable employment and heralds a bright and inclusive future for all Singaporeans.

As of October 2020, over 150 companies have pledged their commitment to sustainable employment. It is timely for your business to take the pledge now!

For more information on Sustainable Employment, visit our webpage or reach us at sustainable.employment@sbf.org.sg

By Yvette Chee, Director for Strategic Planning, Strategy and Development Division, Singapore Business Federation