Singapore minister predicts competition for white-collar jobs will be tight

Singapore minister predicts competition for white-collar jobs will be tight
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

A Singapore minister predicts that the competition for white-collar jobs will be tight since most jobs are performed online nowadays.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced companies to allow their employees to work from home. With this, Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing believes that job competition in the corporate world will intensify.

“In the past, people think that the blue-collar workers are the ones at risk and that’s because their jobs can be replaced by robots and automation. To some extent, that is true,” according to Chan, who joined a panel discussion held by CNBC’s Nancy Hungerford at the virtual Singapore Summit.

“But increasingly, I think the world is realizing that competition is even tougher for the white-collar jobs that can be done over the internet,” Chan noted. “The jobs that can be done over the internet can be done anywhere in the world and because of this, white-collar jobs will no longer have the geographical insulation it used to have,” he added.

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the economy of Singapore and led to limited movements due to the lockdowns imposed by the government to contain the virus. Singapore’s economy fell by a record 13.2% in the second quarter this year compared to a year ago.

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Economic recovery

As part of its road to economic recovery, the Singaporean government has used some of its reserves to come up with fiscal stimulus worth close to 100 billion Singapore dollars ($73.68 billion), or 20% of gross domestic product.

Chan noted that the government is focused on preserving and opening jobs in fields with potential growth.

However, such a goal will be hard for many governments, according to Fleur Pellerin, founder and managing partner of private equity firm Korelya Capital. This is because of the political pressure they face to subsidize companies that may not be showing good prospects, she told the same panel.

“I think from a public point of view, it’s a very difficult topic to handle because we see that the new economy creates jobs, but probably not enough jobs to replace all the jobs that would become obsolete because of automation, artificial intelligence et cetera,” she said.

She explained that the possible changes in the labor market over a five- to 10-year horizon will be challenging for governments, and these changes are built by new technology or changes in the global environment. With this, she believes that countries should prepare their workers for new jobs.

Chan pointed out that the Singaporean government is working on economic recovery even if the pandemic is not over yet. However, he mentioned worsening Covid-19 outbreaks in other parts of the world that could damage the global economy.

“We expect to progressively recover for the last two quarters of this year but whether we will be in the clear by next year will very much depend on the global economic performance,” he said during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Friday.

“We will continue to diversify our markets and pivot into new products and services. So we’re not waiting for the pandemic to blow over.”

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