New Manpower Plan to Transform Retail Sector

Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say warns that job growth here will be "significantly less" over the next 5 years than the 3 to 4 per cent seen annually in recent times.

Noting that local workforce growth has also slowed over the last decade, he launched a manpower plan yesterday (10 Dec) to drive transformation of the retail sector, which faces challenges from e-commerce, manpower shortages, and high business costs.

The Singapore Retailers Association said more than 40 per cent of frontline positions in the retail industry remain unfilled, and was unlikely to change because of current restrictions on foreign manpower.  

The new manpower plan consists of four initiatives to help retailers attract talent, maximise employee capability and increase productivity.

The first initiative is to encourage business remodelling and job redesign. A study of these areas will be done by SPRING Singapore and the findings will serve as a "best practices" guide. During the second stage of the study, retailers keen to implement the findings can tap into grants from SPRING.

Other initiatives under the plan are enhancing human resources capabilities and benefits, strengthening the transition from school to employment in the retail industry and developing programmes to address future skills needs. 

One company that has already transformed itself is Decks, which owns Surfers Paradise and Island shops. It implemented technology to cut the time on repetitive activities from 2,520 hours down to 150. Staff previously spent about 40 per cent of their time on such tasks but can now spend it with customers instead.

Do you think the new manpower plan will help boost the retail sector? Share your thoughts with us!

Sources: “Plan to transform retail sector launched” (The Straits Times, 11 Dec 2015); “New manpower plan to aid labour-starved retail industry” (TODAY, 10 Dec 2015); “Expect lower job growth in next 5 years: Swee Say” (TODAY, 10 Dec 2015)

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