Technology could help the Singapore workforce become more manpower-lean, and improve the quality of jobs

Don’t fear technology. Run with it. If it takes away jobs, let it be our competitors’ jobs

Annual Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum organised by NUSPA

Speaking at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum 2017 themed “Singapore’s Changing Demographics – Maintaining a Thriving Economy with a Diversified Workforce“, Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said that while there are legitimate concerns that technology could put people out of jobs in some countries, it is not the case in Singapore.

Minister of Manpower Lim Swee Say at Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum 2017 themed “Singapore’s Changing Demographics – Maintaining a Thriving Economy with a Diversified Workforce”. Photo: Wee Teck Hian

“Our bottleneck is not jobs. Our bottleneck is technology,” he said.

Technology, he stressed, could help the workforce become manpower-lean, and improve the quality of jobs.

“Instead of being fearful of technology, even if technology takes away jobs, let’s make sure that it takes away jobs from our competitors, not from us. So let’s run with the technology.”

His advice on what skills students should have in order to thrive in the future economy?

Develop a strong foundation through a broad-based education but be good in something.

Sharing his own experience, he recalled during his undergraduate days at Loughborough University in UK when he was horrified to learn that the electronics and computer systems engineering course that he was taking had a sizeable component on seemingly unrelated subjects like macroeconomics and human resources.

Mr Lim told his audience at the annual Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum last night that as companies and the economy restructure, sometimes forced by disruptive technology, workers will have to adapt and continually learn new skills. (Photo: ST)


Together with his peers, he complained to the university. A representative of the university simply told them, “Today you will be upset with me. Ten years from now, one day, you will be grateful to me. I don’t forsee all of you remaining as engineers all your life.”

Looking back at his own eventful career – as software engineer with National Computer Board to taking on roles at EDB and the labour movement to Cabinet Minister – Mr Lim said he had realized the truth in those words.

Mr Lim said, “At the end of the day, you do not know where your life will lead you. By having a foundation, it will be very useful.”


A rambling homemaker dreaming of a better world and sharing her 2-cents worth.

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