One of Singapore’s top political leaders said the city-state faces a “major and urgent challenge” in the next six months to a year, warning of more job losses ahead amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The comments from Tharman Shanmugaratnam came after he chaired the first meeting for a council that included business groups and government leaders to seek new job opportunities to cope with the slowdown. About 100,000 jobs, both permanent and temporary, could be created from that initiative, he said.
“But we have to be realistic,” the senior minister and coordinating minister for social policies said in a Facebook post. The “sheer uncertainty” in the global economy means “we will have far fewer new job openings than jobs being lost — over the next year, and beyond that if we are unlucky,” he said.
Singapore’s approach to the virus is set to become a defining issue in upcoming elections, with lockdown curbs set to drag on past most of Asia’s after its original, less restrictive approach was scuppered by a second wave of infections.
The city-state, which began easing some of the restrictions this week to restart its economy, is trying to prevent another resurgence in virus cases after an outbreak centered on its army of low-waged migrant workers sent cases above 36,000. Still, it has one of the lowest death rates with just 24 fatalities, and only a handful of patients remain in intensive care.
The senior minister also cautioned against a situation in countries where a jobless rate of 10% or more becomes a new normal for both the government and people.
“No amount of unemployment benefits can compensate for not having a job, and for the social stagnation and loss of optimism about the future that comes when a large segment of the population feels redundant and out of sorts,” he said. “We must never get there.”
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