Not all is lost despite global inflation and the increased cost of living

Singaporean holding money

TLDR; NTUC’s Secretary General dishes on NTUC’s plans on helping more profiles of workers combat the rising cost of living, with a deeper focus on youth and women. 

Just another day in Singapore – the incessant complaints from Singaporeans, lamenting about the recent announcement of the GST hike and the increased cake prices from the Rich & Good Cakeshop just to name a few. 

Why is everyone so focused on the GST hike? It was due anyway. 

The announcement of a GST hike from 7% to 9% was first announced back in 2018, with the Government saying that it might happen anytime between 2021 – 2025. The increase was held off last year as the world and Singapore grappled with COVID-19 , but as said by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, it’s time for the government to “‘start moving” as the economy emerges from the pandemic.

Also… I think we can all agree that continued economic growth is also necessary to fulfill our aspirations for a better life. 

The increased cost of living is not directly related to the GST hike. Many factors contribute to the increased cost of living – like goods shortages and the end of pandemic support just to name a few. 

But what does this mean for workers? 

Speaking to the media at a session on 7 February, NTUC’s Secretary-General Mr Ng Chee Meng shared the focus for the year ahead. Mr Ng shared that the key to dealing with the rising cost of living is to ensure that workers maintain good jobs with good wages. He also added that NTUC plans to step in to see how to better partner businesses to upgrade workers’ skills, so that they are better prepared to “seize new opportunities” and “gain better work prospects”. 

He also shared these plans in a Facebook post below: 

For the past 60 years, NTUC’s focus has always been on uplifting vulnerable workers – protecting and advancing their interests, uplifting their lives, in turn, strengthening social compact. 

So here are NTUC’s focus areas for 2022, debunked: 

1. Cushioning the impact of the rising cost of living through NTUC Social Enterprises 

On the social front, Mr Ng said that NTUC social enterprises will help members and workers  “stretch their dollar” and cushion the impact of the cost of living.

“NTUC has always been helping Singaporeans, especially when cost pressures are felt. FairPrice Group has done so for so many years. We will, in 2022, look at possibilities and measures to mitigate increases of actual business costs that are impacting society,” he said.

Apart from support from NTUC and its social enterprises, the Government has provided support in previous GST hikes across the years. This includes the popular packages in the form of cash payouts, utilities, conservancy and rental rebates, with other subsidies. 

Apart from immediate monetary relief, there are still other areas NTUC and the Government is looking at to better prepare for uncertainties ahead as we enter a post-pandemic world. 

2. Ensuring workers stay relevant and future-ready through training and transformation 

NTUC also said that it would continue to pay close attention to safeguarding the workforce’s income and security growth this year. To support this, 811 company training committees (CTC) have been set up. This initiative is targeted at identifying training and the skills workers need to keep up with transformation. 

To complement the CTCs, NTUC also set up the training and placement ecosystem in 2021, supplemented by the operation and technology roadmap (OTR) process. Some 266 companies have completed the OTR. 

Beyond the CTCs, tripartite partners are also working to transform businesses and workers at a sectoral level.

From February 2020 to December 2021, NTUC’s e2i has helped match more than 46,000 workers to new or secondary jobs.

Protecting and representing more workers across different sectors 

With NTUC focusing on workers across more sectors, this ensures that the growth opportunities are fair, inclusive and beneficial for workers from all walks of life.  Some of the worker groups include lower-wage workers, PMEs, the self-employed, older workers with a deeper focus on youth and women.

Some examples;

  • Partnerships with institutes of higher learning e.g. schools will continue to ensure that our young and future workers will have access to real placement opportunities through programmes such as internships. 
  • NTUC’s training and placement ecosystem will also help ease women who are looking at returning to the workforce – this is done through targeted assistance and dedicated job matching.
  • On top of that, NTUC is working closely with companies to redesign jobs and adopt family-friendly practices.

So… it’s not all doom and gloom. 

There are exciting growth opportunities ahead, and we have organisations and social policies in place to help workers at every step of the way, in all areas of life. 

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