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Singapore: Corporate Investment

Availability of Skilled Workers and Business Infrastructure

Singapore's labour market is very tight, with skilled workers in great demand, especially in rapidly growing sectors such as financial services and construction. The government puts a strong emphasis on up-skilling and on education in general, but it faces the problem of a rapidly ageing population. Nearly a quarter of Singapore's current workforce are immigrants.

The seasonally adjusted overall unemployment rate fell slightly to 2.1% in September 2010 from 2.2% in June 2010. Among the resident labour force, the unemployment rate was 3.1%, also down by 0.1%-point from 3.2% in June 2010. Both rates represented significant improvements from 3.3% (overall) and 4.8% (resident) a year ago. These figures show that there is effectively no slack in the labour market.

A Labour Force Survey conducted in the middle of 2010 by the Ministry of Manpower’s Research and Statistics Department records a record high in terms of the proportion of the resident population in employment, at 66%. The proportion of residents aged 25 to 64 in employment scaled a new high of 77.1% in 2010. Among prime working age men the figure is 92%.

Needless to say, these figures are reflected in pressure on wages and salaries. The median monthly income from work of residents in full-time employment rose by 4.2% over the year to $2,710 in 2010.

The government provides many support schemes to the labour market:

  • For those looking to enter the technical industries, the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) offers a range of full and part time courses, in addition to traineeships in a number of areas, which combine both ‘on the job’ practical training in an employment environment, and ‘off the job’ technical training, either at an ITE college, or an approved training centre.
  • For local students and graduates looking to enter other areas, the Management Associate Partnership (MAP) and the Enterprise Internship Programme are available. In the case of the MAP, local university graduates are matched with fast-growing SMEs for an 18-month period, during which the graduate is taught the various aspects of the business. Qualifying SMEs can receive up to SGD15,000 to defray the costs associated with employing and training the graduate.
  • Under the EIP, students at Singapore-based polytechnics and universities can work with SMEs under short-term internships; SPRING Singapore co-funds the weekly stipend for the student (SGD200 for polytechnic students, and SGD300 for university students).
  • It is possible to undertake work experience or internships in Singapore; a number of universities and placement agencies both nationally and internationally have agreements in place with employers.
  • The Work Holiday Programme permit is likely to be of most interest to undergraduates (and those undertaking post-graduate study) aged 17-30, and from an approved university in Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The permit is valid for a six-month period, and because of the short duration, there are no restrictions on the areas in which the applicant can work.
  • The Training Employment Pass should be applied for by those foreign undergraduates or workers seeking to undertake practical training in relation to professional, specialist, managerial, or executive jobs. Where the applicant is an undergraduate (from an approved university), the attachment should be an essential part of their degree course.
  • For local students and graduates, the Management Associate Partnership (MAP) and the Enterprise Internship Programme are available. In the case of the MAP, local university graduates are matched with fast-growing SMEs for an 18-month period, during which the graduate is taught the various aspects of the business. Qualifying SMEs can receive up to SGD15,000 to defray the costs associated with employing and training the graduate.
  • Under the EIP, students at Singapore-based polytechnics and universities can work with SMEs under short-term internships; SPRING Singapore co-funds the weekly stipend for the student (SGD200 for polytechnic students, and SGD300 for university students).

Singapore has excellent telecommunications. It is estimated that, with landline and mobile phones combined, there are approximately 175 phones per 100 people. In 2008, there were 3.37 million Internet users.

There are eight airports in Singapore, the main one being Changi International Airport. There is a good road network, with a causeway linking Singapore with Malaysia. There is also a train service linking Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, with trains running to Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Bangkok.

The Port of Singapore is the world’s busiest in terms of total shipping tonnage, transhipment and containers, handling some 140,000 vessels each year. The port is also the world’s third largest petrochemical refiner, and operates South-East Asia’s most technically advanced and efficient shipbuilding and ship-repair facilities. The Singapore Registry of Ships has over 3,000 registered vessels totalling more than 29 million gross tonnes, and offers tax advantages and financial incentives to Singapore-registered vessels under the Approved International Shipping Enterprise scheme, the Approved Shipping Logistics scheme, the Maritime Finance Incentive scheme, and the Maritime Cluster Fund.

There are six Singapore-incorporated banks which are owned by three banking groups: DBS Bank Limited, Far Eastern Bank Ltd, Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp. Ltd, Singapore Island Bank Ltd, The Islamic Bank of Asia, and United Overseas Bank Ltd. Over 100 foreign commercial banks are registered in Singapore, including some 40 or so offshore banks.

Singapore is one of the first countries to have introduced legislation to enable e-commerce, with the enactment of the Electronic Transaction Act 1998. The Act closely follows the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce, and is drafted in such a way that government authorities can introduce electronic filing systems without amending other laws. It also allows public bodies to issue licences and permits electronically.

Singapore’s aim is to be an international e-commerce hub. The Act aims to provide the legal framework necessary to ensure predictability, trust and certainty to allow e-commerce to flourish.

The Act provides a framework that clearly sets out the rights and obligations of parties in the course of e-commerce, as well as the legal aspects of electronic contracts, digital signatures, authentication and non-repudiation.

Under the Act, network service providers are not subject to criminal or civil liability for third-party material where the provider is merely the host of such material. The Evidence Act was, however, amended to allow electronic records to be used as evidence in court proceedings.

In the course of developing a Public Key Infrastructure, the Act provides for the appointment of a Controller of Certification Authorities. The Controller enables regulations to allow certification authorities (including foreign certification authorities) to be licensed under a voluntary regime, subject to strict licensing criteria including financial soundness and security controls.

 

 

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