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A renewed social contract is key to a successful and inclusive society: MOM and NTUC

Singapore delegates share positions with the International Labour Organization.
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A successful society is one where everyone succeeds together and that it is important to renew the social contract with workers, ensuring that no one gets left behind.


This is the statement made by the Singapore government- and worker-delegates at the 112th International Labour Conference on 10 June 2024 in Geneva.


Manpower Minister Tan See Leng and NTUC President K. Thanaletchimi gave their thoughts on the International Labour Organization (ILO) Director-General Gilbert F. Houngbo’s report titled Towards a Renewed Social Contract.


The director-general's report highlighted the urgent need to renew the social contract to address social justice, inequalities, and geopolitical instability globally.


It also emphasised the role of social dialogue and collective responsibilities in achieving lasting peace and shared prosperity.


Dr Tan said: “We are now responding to the challenges of a post-pandemic world by reassessing how we better ensure fair opportunities and protections for every worker and empower our workforces to benefit from technological change. We therefore welcome the director-general’s report Towards a Renewed Social Contract.”


Ms Thanaletchimi said the Singapore NTUC is committed to the ILO’s vision and objective of advancing social justice, freedom, dignity, economic security, equal opportunity, and decent work.


“This is especially important with a rapidly ageing workforce that has to grapple with strong driving forces such as sustainability and rapid technology changes, as well as global socio-economic and political developments and challenges,” she said.


This was Ms Thanaletchimi’s inaugural plenary speech at the conference since she became NTUC president in November 2023.


NTUC and the ILO share similar priorities


Ms Thanaletchimi commended Mr Houngbo’s report and emphasised the need to promote social justice, freedom, dignity, economic security, equal opportunity, and global decent work.


She shared that NTUC recently renewed its workers’ compact in 2023 and is committed to reducing inequality through the expansion of the Progressive Wage Model and the enhancement of social protection for workers.


“Our initiatives aim to enhance wages, welfare and work prospects for workers, mirroring the director-general’s call for a renewed social contract prioritising equity and inclusiveness,” she said.


 She also shared how NTUC is addressing various challenges highlighted in the report.


On Inclusive growth


Ms Thanaletchimi said NTUC’s focus on inclusive growth aligns with the ILO’s emphasis on social dialogue.


She said: “Our collaborative tripartite approach, involving the government, employers, and unions, has been instrumental in ensuring all stakeholders, including workers ranging from the lower-wage to gig workers and PMEs, benefit from economic progress.”


Ms Thanaletchimi shared how the Labour Movement’s #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations culminated in ten key policy recommendations, several of which were adopted by the Singapore Government.


These included assuring mid-career workers of a just transition to resilient career pathways amidst disruption; providing comprehensive support for youth in their career journeys; ensuring fair employment opportunities and training support; supporting caregivers with improved leave schemes and flexible working arrangements; ensuring retirement adequacy for workers; enhancing respect and recognition for essential service workers.


On informal employment


Ms Thanaletchimi said NTUC shared Mr Houngbo’s concern regarding the prevalence of informal employment.


She said NTUC has focused on structured training and placement while enhancing social protection for informal workers.


She gave the example of NTUC’s C U Back at Work Programme, which provided flexible training and work arrangements for informal workers, especially caregivers, to ease them back into the workforce.


On platform workers


For platform workers, Ms Thanaletchimi said NTUC secured the Singapore Government’s commitment to implement workplace injury compensation and social security contributions, aligning them with employee standards.


Additionally, the Government agreed to establish a collective representation body for platform workers.


“With this, platform workers’ associations will be able to officially negotiate for better outcomes, resolve disputes and sign binding agreements with the platform companies,” she said.


On upskilling and reskilling


Ms Thanaletchimi shared how NTUC strongly prioritises upskilling and reskilling, which aligns with the ILO's recommendations for future workforce resilience.


She shared how NTUC’s Company Training Committee (CTC) initiative has helped to drive company transformation and worker upskilling.


She added that, with the Government’s support, over 2,100 CTCs have been formed, training more than 200,000 workers and resulting in increased productivity, innovation, and higher wages.


On gender equality


Ms Thanaletchimi said NTUC is also dedicated to promoting gender equality and enhancing women's participation in the workforce.


“Our initiatives support women in balancing work and family commitments, fostering a more inclusive and equitable labour market,” she said.


She shared how NTUC was instrumental in establishing the Tripartite Guidelines on Flexible Work Arrangement Requests and has ensured that workers have a formal process for requesting flexible working arrangements.


“We are committed to leaving no one behind in our efforts to improve their wages, welfare and work prospects because every worker matters,” she said.