Hanoi (VNA) – Singapore has launched a regional centre to help ASEAN member states prepare for the future of work.

The Regional Centre for the Future of Work will be advised by ASEAN Secretary-General Dato Lim Jock Hoi and relevant international experts.

The initiative is especially timely amid COVID-19, Singaporean Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo said in her keynote address at the HR Tech Festival Asia 2020, a three-day online event for international executives and human resource (HR) practitioners.

The idea for the new centre was first mooted as a regional initiative to ASEAN leaders and International Labour Organisation (ILO) representatives last April, at the 2019 Singapore Conference on the Future of Work.

The centre will champion embracing technology for inclusive growth, workplace safety and health, and tripartite relations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to go digital and adopt remote working arrangements overnight, said Teo. It has also taken a heavy toll on livelihoods. The new centre is aimed at helping member states respond to these challenges.

Lockdown measures and the rapid worsening of economic conditions have led to heightened unemployment and temporary layoffs, she noted, in Asia and the Pacific alone, the total loss in working hours for the second quarter of 2020 was equivalent to 235 million full-time jobs."

She cited figures by ILO as by June 2020, 35 million of these full-time jobs were lost in Southeast Asia. In Singapore, unemployment rose to 2.8 percent in June, the highest in more than a decade.

The centre will be organising more conferences over the next few years, in collaboration with the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation./.