Singapore losing out on productivity war

HRM 15 Jan 2013

Singapore’s level of productivity is well below that in other developed countries, said Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

In his post on Facebook, DPM Tharman said that restaurants in the US or Japan have few workers, but are able to do just as well as other more well-staffed establishments. These employees handle more duties, but are well-trained and well-paid. They are also proud of their jobs.

That is what productivity is about, said DPM Tharman.

While higher wages for waiters and kitchen staff also means higher prices, this can be offset by greater productivity gains. He explains that it is the reason why productivity is the key to upgrading our incomes and standard of living.

DPM Tharman observed that restaurants in Singapore have difficulty finding employees, especially during peak periods like the Lunar New Year season. Some restaurants have even raised the pay to attract part-timers to join. However, these restaurants are still short of people because the overall labour market is close to full employment, he wrote.

Although foreign workers are still needed in the restaurants and other businesses, the “fundamental and sustainable solution is to transform the jobs”, said DPM Tharman.

In his post, DPM Tharman said that everyone had a role to pay for productivity to increase. Employers ought to transform the way businesses run and share productivity gains with employees through better pay, while staff should pick up skills and keep learning on the job. The Government also has to lend support by helping to upgrade and upskill every sector.

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