Singapore cannot afford to be complacent about its economic success

Author: PM editorial | Date: 6 Apr 2016

Future of Talent report urges country to anticipate future trends instead of relying on old practices

Singapore cannot afford to be complacent about its economic success if it is to remain a prosperous and dynamic place to live and work in the future.
That is the finding of a new report published by the CIPD and the Human Capital Leadership Institute (HCLI). The Future of Talent in Singapore 2030 ( examines four possible scenarios the country might face by the end of the next decade.
The report suggests that Singapore may need to examine the shape and nature of its talent base to be sure of remaining competitive. And there is a significant danger of complacency if political and business leaders assume the policies and practices that have made the country successful to date will be enough to power future growth.
“When you keep doing the same things you’ve always done, can you be confident of your resilience in the face of radical change?” asks Dr Wilson Wong, the CIPD’s head of insight and futures. Is intensification of skills alone enough? Singapore has reached a pinnacle of excellence in human capital and technical ability. What else can it do?”
Dr Wong suggests it is particularly interesting to consider the potential impact of technological trends such as ‘disintermediation’, which could remove whole swathes of human capital from financial services as both decision-making and transactions are almost entirely automated. This shift would require interventions at both state and microeconomic levels, he adds, and it may be useful to begin planning now: “Singapore has told people they need to work hard for the economy to thrive. But now it’s pulling away from the pack, it may become more important to diversify to remain relevant in the global economy.”
In such a scenario, the state may need to relinquish some of its tendencies towards central economic planning. But there are also ‘softer’ interventions that could prove broadly beneficial: in both educational and workplace environments, there is a tendency to stigmatise failure, whereas acceptance of mistakes and an ability to learn from them could encourage innovation and democratise workplaces. Schools and universities could also do more to inculcate critical thinking skills, to ensure the right sort of local talent is emerging to work alongside foreign skills.
The report suggests there are already socioeconomic indicators that should give policymakers pause for thought, including the consistently low level of unemployment (currently 1.9 per cent), which impacts on the need to innovate with the abundance of safer job options, lower productivity growth, lower levels of imported talent and demographics, such as a birth rate of 1.2 per cent, the lowest level for 15 years.
These trends have implications for HR professionals, as well as government. “HR’s job is in part to anticipate the trends that will affect the organisation’s core business, and sometimes, that requires taking a longer view. But most businesses’ strategic plans don’t go beyond three to five years,” says Dr Wong. HR professionals could take on an enhanced role in some of the scenarios by deepening links between employers and institutions, and considering the potential of techniques such as mentoring and reverse mentoring to encourage skills transfer.