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Discuss the industrial relationship in Singapore?




Background of the sinapore industrial relations:

The Industrial relationship in Singapore developed on the collegial relationship between ruling political party, the labor movement and the People’s Action Party. This inter-relationship between the three and their dispute among each other gave rise to the foundation of the Industrial Relationship in Singapore (Blanpain, R. (Ed.). 2013). One of the main key for the trade relationship in Singapore was the trade unions of the country. Their existence in the anti-colonial struggle and the advantage used by the People’s Action Party and the communist arose an uneasy atmosphere between them. In the year 1961, the trade union of Singapore split in to two halves, one to be known as the Singapore Association of Trade Union (SATU) and the other came to be known as the National Trade Union of Congress, non-communist (NTUC). Among the two divisions, the National trade Union of Congress became the ruling trade union of Singapore mainly because of the governmental support and cooperation (Gan, B.,et al, 2012). Another contributing reason for the emergence of NTUC as the ruling party of trade union in Singapore is the strike that was held by Singapore Association of Trade Union, in 1963, which resulted in banning of the procommunist trade organization and arrest of their leaders. The strong bonding between the People’s Action Party and National Trade union of Congress, held the base of the industrial relations in Singapore.

Purpose of the study:

The main purpose for researching on the Industrial Relations of Singapore will help us to understand the causes for the present prevailing industrial relations in Singapore in relation to its aspects and the its features as well as the reasons for the prevailing dispute and struggle. It will at the same time enhance our scope of knowledge about the industrial relations of Singapore. The scope of a research on the industrial relationship of Singapore will be discussing the history of the industrial relations to the statistical reviews of the strikes and foreign investment made by Singapore in the past twenty years to the theory of John Dunlop explaining the role of four key players of an industry.

Dunlop’s theory on industrial relation:

John Thomas Dunlop, an economist of Harvard University led down his theory on industrial relations. His theory is mainly provides for a pattern which will help people to understand the model relationship between the industries and their workers and will also help in improving and thereby enhancing the relationship between labors and management. His theory recognizes the key actors of an industry, their inter-relationships and the outcomes of their relationships.

Role of the four key players of indural relations and their contribution:

According to his theory on industrial relations there are mainly four key players of an industrial belt. The four key players are Government, Employer, Union and the Employee. Each of them plays a vital role in assessing the relationships in industrial sector.

Government: Its Role And Contribution

Government of any country plays a vital role in regulating the activities of his territory. It is to be mentioned here that as government is the head of the country generally it is there duty to regulate the business world with discipline.  For proper regulation of the business world within the country, it frames policies and rules and regulates them for the purpose. A government is the one who maintains uniformity within the country “(Waring, P., & Lewer, J. 2013). The main purpose of a government is provide for a well developed industrial relation within the country which will provide equal benefit to the employers as well as the employees and the trade unions. At the same time it is the government who has to look in to the economy of the country as well parallel to an effective relationship between employer, employee and trade union.

It is expected that the government of Singapore is to frame new sets of rules and laws in order to regulate the business world and the pattern of work to be followed. It is the duty of the government to scrutinized as to whether the rules are being followed by industries in accordance to the rules framed (Heery, E. 2015). The Singapore government has framed a fiscal policy for its country which lays emphasis on the development and expansion of private sector business. The Ministry of Manpower Singapore mainly concentrates on investing in private sector industries, where there is less chance of investment by the industries themselves. It mainly lays down emphasis on providing well skilled technical knowledge to its manpower along with good education as per the need of the economy of the country (Baldry, C. 2012).

Employer: Its Role And Contribution

An employer is one who engages worker in his business and pays them a salary or wages in exchange of the service rendered by them. It is in the interest of the employer, that he shall assure a better atmosphere of work to his employees so as to run his business smoothly. A better work, equal opportunity and treatment towards each employee of his business will assure a smooth organization as well will reduce the chances of dispute among the management and the workers.

An organization named the Singapore National Employers Federation has been established to enhance the business skills of the employees in relation to practice of employment. The main purpose for establishing the organization is to lay forward the structure of performance expected from employers (Emmenegger, P. (Ed.). 2012). The Singapore National Employers Federation is formed so as establish a balance in the industrial relations in Singapore. This organization has enabled the employers to enhance the competition among the workforce parallel to that also look after the maintenance of the working environment for the workers and to perform their duties in respect of their client, employees, shareholders and Singapore (Varma, A., & Budhwar, P. S. 2013).


Employees: Its Role And Contribution

Employers can be defined to be the group of people who work for the benefit of a business and get paid for the services rendered by them by the employers. The employees generally work for the benefit of the company with the purpose of improving the terms and conditions of their employment (Rodan, G. (Ed.). 2013). There main objective shall be to deliver their service with due care and diligence. The efficiency of an employee is mostly depended on the interest taken by their employer in their activities. The interest of an employer in their activities encourages them to work more efficiently and maintain their loyalty towards the company (Heracleous, L., & Wirtz, J. 2012).

Trade Union: Its Role And Contribution

Trade Union is an organization which is mostly run on the membership of the employees of different services and profession. The main interest or objective of a trade union is to ensure that their members are working smoothly without any interruption. They try to assure a better environment of work, proper adequate wages and safety of their workers. The National Trade Union of Congress is the only trade union in Singapore at present (Kaminska, M. E., & Visser, J. 2011). At present there 60 trade unions affiliated under it and one taxi association affiliated under it. Membership to trade union is automatically done in Singapore and majority of the decisions of the industrial belt is taken by the trade unions as trade unions in Singapore runs on democratic base line.

They play a vital role in assessing the decision making power of the industries in regards to the economy, employees and employers (Thomas, et al (Eds.). 2014).

Contributional examples:


Tripartism is generally a procedure and a pattern by which the social partners tries to create awareness and at the same time contributes the development, thereby over looking the social partners by an activity to formulate and boost the ability to contribute in tripartite process. The role of tripartism in Singapore is significant in nature. It plays a vital role in deciding the industrial relation in Singapore (Park, B. G., et al, (Eds.). 2012). It takes up the role to reinforce the economic competition in the country at international level along with process management of labor relations and assuring general development of the country from the reinforcement of their activities. The main motive and objective of tripartism can be divided in to four parts. The first point is the scope of creation of employment. It aims at obtaining scopes to create more employment for the  people of the country (Baird, M., & Williamson, S. 2011). Secondly it tries in reinforcing the retirement age and extend it so that peole can work till the age they are capable of working and thereby they don’t suffer from economical issues due to early age retirement. Thirdly, they try to ensure proper training to the employees and thereby try to upgrade their employment skills. Lastly, they try to assure that there is a fair practice in regards to employment within the country (Chew, S. B. 2014). A fair practice will lead to improved situations between the employer, employees and the trade union.

National wages council:

At the time when in Singapore industries were growing rapidly, at a fast phase and wages expectation was increasing at a rapid speed, The national wages council was established to determine fair wages within the country system (Waring, P., & Lewer, J. 2013). The committee was aware of the fact that increase in expectation of high wages would led to industrial disputes thereby effecting the investments and the growth of Singapore. The main objective of the National Wages Council was to regulate fair wages within the industry system so that it is effective in the long run in relation to economic and social growth of Singapore.

Flexible wage system:

The idea of Flexible wage system gained recognition in the period when Singapore was being affected by huge recession. The main objective of the flexible wage system was to regulate a fair wage system within the industrial belt so as to reduce the effects of demanding high wage rates and also to bring a flexibility of working within the industrial belt among the employer, employees and the government (Yew, L. K. 2012). .

Statistical review:

The total labor force in Singapore was 2341.9 in the year 2004. In a decade this rate of labor increased rapidly 3530.8 in the year 2014. The annual average turnover of labor force in Singapore in the year 2005 was 2.7 which decreased to 2.6 in the year 2014, as recorded by the ministry of manpower in Singapore. The average foreign investment rate was $220.4 in the year 1995 which rapidly increased to $353.50 in the year as 2005, as recorded by the Singapore Statistical department. A huge increase in the rate of foreign investment was noticed in the year 2014, with an average of $625.2, an increase by 12%.


Industrial relations need to be smooth as a country’s economy is largely depended upon industries of a country.. So it is vital that the four keys to an industrial relation shall work accordingly as per the theory of John Dunlop. Tripartism is the base of industrial relations today in Singapore. Tripartism basically ensures proper communication of the activities of different social groups in the country. Working as per the rules will ensure a better environment to work both for the employees and employers and will benefit the government of Singapore.



Blanpain, R. (Ed.). (2013). Comparative labour law and industrial relations. Springer.

Gan, B., Morgan, D. E., & Sheldon, P. (2012). Business-Government Relations and Institutional Leadership in Singapore: The Case of the Singapore National Employers’ Federation. Available at SSRN 2130972.

Warner, M. (2014). Culture and management in Asia. Routledge.

Yew, L. K. (2012). From third world to first: The Singapore story, 1965-2000(Vol. 2). Marshall Cavendish International Asia Pte Ltd.

Waring, P., & Lewer, J. (2013). The global financial crisis, employment relations and the labour market in Singapore and Australia. Asia Pacific Business Review, 19(2), 217-229.

Heery, E. (2015). British industrial relations pluralism in the era of neoliberalism. Journal of Industrial Relations, 0022185615598190.

Baldry, C. (2012). Computers, jobs, and skills: the industrial relations of technological change. Springer Science & Business Media.

Emmenegger, P. (Ed.). (2012). The age of dualization: the changing face of inequality in deindustrializing societies. Oxford University Press.

Varma, A., & Budhwar, P. S. (2013). Managing human resources in Asia-Pacific (Vol. 20). Routledge.

Rodan, G. (Ed.). (2013). Political oppositions in industrialising Asia. Routledge.

Heracleous, L., & Wirtz, J. (2012). Strategy and Organisation at Singapore Airlines: Achieving Sustainable Advantage Through Dual Strategy. In Energy, Transport, & the Environment (pp. 479-493). Springer London.

Kaminska, M. E., & Visser, J. (2011). The emergence of industrial relations in regional trade blocks—a comparative analysis. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 49(2), 256-281.

Thomas, R. M., & Kobayashi, V. N. (Eds.). (2014). Educational technology-Its creation, development and cross-cultural transfer. Elsevier.

Baird, M., & Williamson, S. (2011). Women, work and industrial relations in 2010. Journal of Industrial Relations, 53(3), 337-352.

Chew, S. B. (2014). Introduction And Editorial Overview. The Singapore Economic Review, 59(04), 1401002.

Park, B. G., Hill, R. C., & Saito, A. (Eds.). (2012). Locating neoliberalism in East Asia: neoliberalizing spaces in developmental states (Vol. 70). John Wiley & Sons.


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