Staying Relevant Amidst Disruption – Singapore Labour Movement Adopts Startup Behaviour

Zafirah Salim

NTUC Secretary-General Chan Chun Sing begged this question in his recent blogpost dated on April 25: “Will we be missed if the Labour Movement disappears tomorrow?”

That in itself would serve as a “benchmark” for how well they’ve performed as a pillar of social cohesion and industrial peace.

To achieve excellence, it is imperative for them to be nimble and responsive to adapt to the rapid, disruptive changes in the job economy.

The idea here is to stay relevant, he emphasised.

The New Normal In The Job Landscape

“Gone are the days when one person would be in one job, or two, for an entire lifetime. Increasingly, working people will experience frequent transitions in their employment lifecycles,” wrote Chan.

This all boils down to a mismatch of skills. Beyond that, holding a regular 9-to-5 office job is no longer a norm. With greater employment mobility, skills and training, an individual may be working in a MNC today, a startup tomorrow, and maybe freelance in the near future.

So how can the Labour Movement serve the workers across the continuum of employment options?

“Grow together with our workforce. Fail to evolve, and we would have failed in our mission to take care of the needs of our working people,” wrote Chan.

In other words, they have to ensure that their products and services are relevant to the people they represent.

As part of their efforts to adapt, change and grow, the Labour Movement has grown from a “single union limb to five complementary limbs today,” akin to a starfish.

Besides representing workers through the unions, NTUC has also launched initiatives to support PMEs (U Associates), SME workers (U SMEs), freelancers and self-employed individuals (U FSEs), as well as migrant workers and domestic employees.

This represents NTUC’s growth for the past 10 years, and it is set to continually evolve, “the same way a company can no longer rely on a single product line for the entirety of its existence”.

This diversification has enabled the Labour Movement to reach more working people and increase their representation of the workforce, serving about 1.25 million Singaporeans across various worker segments and industries.

Partnering Singaporeans Throughout Their Working Journey

As Singaporeans go through different phases in the their career and life cycles, NTUC wants to be there for them every step of the way.

“What we want is for our working people to develop a relationship with the Labour Movement – from before they begin work, whilst they’re working, when they are transitioning between careers, and all the way until they retire,” Chan claimed.

Students in Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) will have access to career guidance, and this is just one of the touchpoints where the U Career Network can tangibly start helping young people get a better job fit before they transit into the workforce.  

Experiencing augmented reality learning / Image Credit: NTUC

Training programmes through NTUC’s e2i and Learning Hub will also enable workers to bridge skill gaps quicker through new methods that mesh together working, learning and training.

Efforts have been intensified to enable these workers to pick up new knowledge and skills within the shortest speed-to-market turnaround time through working with U Associate partners.

This initiative “adds value” to the workers, especially PMEs, by linking them up with professional and industrial networks that can help them in their career transitions and career development. Essentially, the U Career Network gives workers an opportunity to deepen their skills and widen their professional networks within and across industries.

“It is no longer about just having the capability to operate in a specific industry, it is about having the skills and network to operate in roles across different industries, especially in adjacent ones,” wrote Chan.

The focus here is to not just serve the workers’ needs today, but “throughout their lifecycles” and across different stages of their careers.

Workers Are A Priority

Essentially, as economic cycles become more volatile and more models of employment become viable options, people tend to go through more changes in their careers. This is why the Labour movement is constantly adapting its services to meet such needs and remain relevant.  

One thing to note: while methods may change, the mission of taking care of workers remain constant and will continue to be a top priority.

Featured Image Credit: Goy Kae Lip/NTUC 

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