Two years ago, a severe global recession hit the world. Today, workers in some countries still suffer the pain of job loss.
In the USA, worsening structural unemployment means millions could be unemployed for a long time.
In Europe, high youth unemployment means many jobless youths today could grow up to be unemployable workers in future.
In Singapore, we succeeded in putting the global recession behind us. Our economic growth is healthy, job creation is strong and unemployment is low.
As Singaporeans and tripartite partners, we can be proud of our unity in securing this quick and solid turnaround together.
Having regained full employment, our challenge is to do even better on two fronts.
First, keep creating enough good jobs for ourselves and our children. It is important that we stay ahead of global competition because we cannot afford a high unemployment rate of 8 per cent as in the case of Europe, or 9 per cent like in the USA.
Otherwise, a weak labour market in Singapore will cause our wages to stagnate.
Second, help Singaporeans capture better job opportunities, earn better wages and pursue faster career advancement.
This means higher wages for our low-wage workers; fair wages for our matured workers; meaningful career opportunities for our back-to-work women; and better career prospects for our PMEs (Professionals, Managers and Executives).
In short, we need to strive for Singapore to be first in global competition to sustain healthy growth and create enough good jobs. We also need to strive for Singaporeans to be first in local employment to take on better jobs, earn better pay and live better lives.
Few countries can set their sights so high but we dare to because our children are well educated, our workforce is well trained, our economy is competitive and our tripartite partnership is strong.
Let us keep strengthening our Singapore Spirit. Together in unity, we can march forward as one unlimited economy and one united workforce.