Charted: Singapore’s productivity problem

By Medha Basu

Government looking to autonomous tech as productivity continues to decline.

Singapore’s labour productivity is in decline, and has been falling since the first half of 2014. To ensure continued economic growth, Singapore is looking to more automation and ensure citizens update their skills.

GovInsider has plotted the Ministry of Manpower’s latest data (see chart above) on labour productivity to illustrate this problem.

Labour productivity fell by 0.5% in the first half of this year, after 9 months of decline in 2014. In the first of 2014, productivity fell by 0.4%, and in the second half by 1.2%. “Overall productivity growth is not likely to see a significant uplift this year,” the Ministry of Manpower said on 15 September.

As a result, Singapore has two options: it could either hire more immigrants, or automate tasks. As Singapore intends to continue reducing the number of foreigners in its workforce, the government is looking to automation.

Restaurants are using drones to replace waiters and robots to cook. Researchers have built a robot that can tile floors two to three times faster than humans. The government is using robotics to dispense medicines in hospitals and is testing whether driverless vehicles can be used for public transport.

The government has also launched a skills drive to encourage citizens to upgrade their skills. The SkillsFuture programme gives very Singapore 25 years old and above S$500 to attend training sessions. Companies will also need to make “significant investments in developing their employees and rewarding them based on their skills and contributions,” the Ministry of Manpower added.