The employment situation here is cause for concern. Nearly half the employees of the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre have been retrenched amid the dire straits which the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions sector finds itself in because of the coronavirus pandemic. About 13 per cent of the workforce were affected by a retrenchment exercise at Boeing Asia Pacific Aviation Services, a joint venture between The Boeing Company and SIA Engineering Company. British jet engine-maker Rolls-Royce will manufacture its wide-chord fan blades entirely in Singapore and move some operations back to Britain as part of the aerospace giant’s consolidation plans amid the pandemic. The company announced earlier that 240 workers here would be laid off as part of a global restructuring exercise. Sectors hard hit by Covid-19 have shed workers as a last resort, which was not unexpected. But it still comes as a nasty surprise for those affected. The outlook remains gloomy until a sustainable economic recovery takes off.
As the job situation worsens, it remains important for the Government and employers to care for the Singaporean core of the workforce. The latest move in that direction lies in the decision to raise qualifying salaries for Employment Pass and S-Pass applicants. Although the increase will raise costs for some businesses, the change is a reflection of the gravity of the situation facing Singaporean workers as higher unemployment kicks in and more people work shorter hours and look for an additional job. The new hiring requirements are a reminder to companies that they must prioritise the employment of qualified or suitable Singaporeans over foreigners where possible. Building up and retaining the Singaporean core is necessary in the best of times. In the worst, it is critical so that Singaporeans do not lose faith in the equity of the economic system.