THE president of an employers' group has urged bosses not to be discouraged by last year's dip in productivity growth, but to persevere in improving it.
'Productivity is key to countering rising business costs and manpower shortages, as well as (to) the upgrading of low-wage jobs,' said Mr Stephen Lee, president of the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF).
Mr Lee made the call yesterday in a message to mark May Day, an annual celebration of workers' contributions, which falls next Tuesday.
Productivity grew just 1 per cent last year, below this decade's target of 2 per cent to 3 per cent each year.
Yet employers should not falter, said Mr Lee: 'Raising productivity over the long term requires perseverance and sustained efforts.'
He told The Straits Times that management must continue to lead the drive, but also needs to engage and involve unions and workers, and upgrade workers for better jobs.
His message comes amid high inflation, which hit 5.2 per cent last month.
But raising productivity will help businesses cope, said Mr Lee.
'Doing more with the same or less resources will help companies cushion the impact of rising business costs,' he told The Straits Times.
In his message, he also exhorted bosses to build an inclusive workforce, and share gains with low-wage workers.
'In this way, workers will be further motivated to support productivity efforts,' he told The Straits Times.
In a separate May Day message, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who is also the Manpower Minister, pledged that the Government will continue to bring inclusive growth to Singaporeans.
'Everything we do is ultimately aimed at... growth which benefits all Singaporeans,' he said.
The key priority is to 'press on' with economic restructuring, so that higher productivity supports higher wages for workers, he added.
Mr Tharman promised to lend a hand to both companies and workers in the restructuring.
Small and medium-sized enterprises will get government help to upgrade operations to stay competitive, he said. Also, various training schemes for professionals, managers and executives will be expanded.
The DPM singled out low-wage workers and older workers as needing 'special support'.
He laid out the various schemes to improve the lot of low-wage workers such as Workfare, NTUC's Inclusive Growth Programme and the Government's 'best sourcing' drive to award contracts to companies with good employment practices, instead of those with the lowest bid.
For older workers, he pledged that the Government will 'closely monitor' the implementation and impact of the Retirement and Re-employment Act and Special Employment Credit scheme, which gives companies incentives to hire older workers.
It is important to strike the right balance between keeping Singapore open to foreign talents and expertise, and giving Singaporeans opportunities, he said.
Rounding up his message, Mr Tharman exhorted the tripartite partners to work as 'one family' to grow Singapore.