1. The National Wages Council (NWC)1, a tripartite body made up of employer, employee and government representatives, will reconvene later this month to review its Guidelines issued in March this year.
2. In its March Guidelines which cover the period from 1 April 2020 to 30 June 2021, the Council recommended that employers should first reduce non-wage costs and consider various measures to utilise and manage excess manpower. It asked that employers tap on Government support to offset business and wage costs, and press on with business and workforce transformation so that they can be better prepared to grow when the economy recovers. Should employers still find it necessary to trim wage bills in order to save jobs, they should adopt a graduated approach and give special consideration to low-wage workers. Retrenchment should be a last resort and done in a responsible manner.
3. The Council said that it would reconvene later in the year to review the wage guidelines should the situation warrant it. The labour market has softened considerably since. The preliminary findings from the Ministry of Manpower’s Labour Market Advance Release Second Quarter indicated a significant decline in total employment in 2Q 2020 (121,800, excluding FDWs), more than four-folds of the decline in 1Q 2020. The overall unemployment rate rose from 2.4% in March 2020 to 2.9% in June 2020, and retrenchments were much higher in 2Q 2020 (6,700), compared to a quarter ago (3,220). The softness in the labour market is likely to persist amidst the weak external economic environment, and the pressure on companies to retrench will mount.
4. Given the challenging situation, tripartite leaders have agreed to reconvene the NWC to update its March Guidelines on wage and employment-related issues, so as to provide timely and relevant guidance to employers. The Council will aim to release its updated guidelines by September 2020.
5. NWC Chairman, Peter Seah said, “In the light of the profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy, companies and especially workers, it is important that the tripartite partners review the challenges posed and make recommendations to respond to the issues. In the past, the NWC with the tripartite partners have provided guidance to mitigate through very challenging times. It is timely now, for the NWC to meet again to do so.”
6. The Council welcomes the public to share their views on wage and employment-related issues and suggestions on the guidelines. Feedback can be submitted to the NWC Secretariat through the online form via the link, which will be open until 28 August 2020.
Feedback Form: go.gov.sg/nwc-feedback
1The list of NWC 2020/2021 members is in the Annex.