The labour movement has called on the Government and employers to review job applicants and promotion candidates based on their skills rather than only grades.

It also proposed better protection for freelancers under labour laws.

These are among its recommendations for the upcoming Budget, and are aimed at helping people move into available jobs quickly and remain competitive amid the challenging economic environment.

"More needs to be done to enhance job-matching efforts and narrow jobs-skills gaps as it is inevitable that jobs will evolve, and some may even become obsolete in the fast-changing economy," National Trades Union Congress secretary- general Chan Chun Sing wrote on Facebook yesterday, after NTUC released its 46-page proposal that was submitted to the Finance Ministry last month.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat will deliver the Budget statement in Parliament on Feb 20.

NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said yesterday that it takes time to roll out new academic courses and for workers to get the relevant qualifications. In comparison, skills training programmes and on-the-job training are more readily available.

For this reason, he hoped employers would assess workers on their skills "rather than whether or not they have a master's".

The recommendations by NTUC focused on four key areas: Enhancing job-matching to minimise unemployment, helping workers acquire relevant skills, improving productivity and protecting workers in non- traditional work arrangements.

For example, it called on the Ministry of Manpower to provide data from the government-run Jobs Bank on the types of jobs employers are posting, the skills requirements and salaries being offered. This will help with forecasting manpower trends and creating relevant training programmes, NTUC said in its report.

It also called on the Government to pay for training leave for workers to attend SkillsFuture courses.

For women rejoining the workforce, the NTUC proposed a "returnship programme" - similar to an internship - for the women and their employers to try out the work arrangement for a few months before formal employment and training. It also urged the Government to provide Special Employment Credit for bosses who employ these women.

Another group that NTUC wanted the Government to help is freelancers, who are not covered under labour laws such as the Work Injury Compensation Act. NTUC said this group of workers, estimated at about 200,000, should get more protection, and also support in saving for retirement through their Central Provident Fund accounts.

Turning to low-wage workers in the cleaning, security and landscaping sectors, NTUC asked that they be given compulsory annual wage increments and 13th-month payments.

For young workers, it proposed accrediting employers who offer apprenticeship schemes, while for older workers, it proposed higher wage subsidies.

NTUC also called for deeper collaboration between unions, employers and the Government, such as through educating human resource practitioners, businesses and foreign investors on tripartism.

It said in a statement: "Though we may face short-term and more immediate challenges, all parties... will need to endeavour to prepare for what lies ahead."