SINGAPORE – Addressing the dire manpower crunch in the service sector and the need to transform it and promote sustainable growth, the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) has proposed several actions in a policy paper published on Thursday (May 12).
These include reviewing the foreign workforce quota in the service sector and collaborative efforts to allow firms access to a diverse pool of workers from various backgrounds who may be keen on service roles, such as current safe distancing ambassadors.
Talent, teamwork and rules are three critical factors needed to promote sustainable and inclusive economic growth in the service sector, the policy paper said.
Nine key actions – three under each factor – to tackle the present and future manpower needs of the sector can be undertaken by businesses, trade associations and chambers, government agencies, unions, and post-secondary educational institutions collaboratively.
Specific policy suggestions under each action include moves frequently mooted by businesses, such as different methods of deriving a foreign workforce quota compared with manufacturing and construction.
Other suggestions include stepping up existing government policies, such as encouraging more local and international firms at the forefront of their industries to become “queen bees” that advise small and medium-sized enterprises on the skills needed for business transformation – a scheme already put in place by SkillsFuture Singapore.
Elaborating on what each factor means, SBF said talent refers to allowing access to a diverse pool of workers from various backgrounds that firms can select from, while teamwork entails a synergistic effort to improve manpower utilisation and allocation, and rules mean a more targeted and nuanced manpower policy approach.
The paper, titled The Human Touch: Balancing Manpower Resilience With Productivity For Transformation, was developed in close consultation with eight trade associations, said SBF in a statement on Thursday.
The actions needed relate to the present and future manpower needs of the lifestyle, environmental, and estate and facilities management services industries that the eight trade associations represent.
These include the retail, hotel, waste management and recycling, as well as landscaping sectors, among others.
“The reopening of borders and resumption of tourism, social, and business activities is an opportunity for companies in the service industries to scale up and tap the demand resurgence for growth,” said SBF.
However, the tight manpower situation, a perennial struggle of the industry now magnified by pent-up demand outpacing how fast businesses can get back in gear as restrictions ease, has impacted operations, service levels and waiting times.
SBF added: “There is an urgent need to recalibrate manpower supply in the services industries to enable companies to operate at optimal capacity, so as to deliver the level of service that Singaporeans and (foreign) visitors expect.
“Addressing the manpower crunch will also help companies to plan ahead for growth and transformation.”