Industrial Relations System: Singapore

Essay by Chloe123University, Bachelor'sA-, May 2006

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Singapore's industrial relations system is now well known for its remarkable degree of stability and co-operative labour-management relations. The government has played an active part in promoting economic development through changes in the industrial policy. There are four notable transformations of Singapore's industrial relations since its emergence as a Colonial Administration in 1960. The first was a result of Government's commitment to industrialisation after being released from the constraints of colonial administration. The second was shift to corporatism and was evident in the strategic initiatives by the Government, trade union leader and the employers. The third was known as the "Second Industrial Revolution" and was evoked by the realisation that if the standard of living of Singaporeans were to continue to rise, MNC investment had to shift to high technology, high value-added production. This move to corporate paternalism involved key changes to the structure of trade union and wage reform.

These three transformations involved institutional amendments that have determined the infrastructural arrangements for the fourth. Singapore being a country lacking natural resources relies on its human resource as its single most important capital. The fourth transformation is a response to globalisation by transforming industrial relations into strategic HRM, called 'manpower planning'.

Fundamental changes in the external environment and the relationship between the government and union have brought about some key issues to the industrial relations system. Being a highly industrialised country, Singapore needs to address problems associated with globalisation such as wages, working hours and retrenchment issues. Dependency on the ageing workforce and foreign workers can be better managed to deal with the significant labour shortage Singapore is experiencing. However, it is argued whether these employee rights will be appropriately attended to. Due to the cooperation of the government and the union, it is debatable whether industrial relations policies...