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SINGAPORE — The Singapore government will be extending its Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) by up to seven months in an effort to protect jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Monday (17 August).
“The JSS currently covers the wages of employed workers up to August 2020. I will extend the JSS by up to seven months, covering wages paid up to March 2021,” said Heng during his Ministerial Statement, which was publicly broadcast over local media outlets.
Introduced in February as part of Budget 2020, the scheme involves the government subsidising portions of local workers’ wages in order to encourage employers to retain them amid the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic. Thus far, some $16 billion in JSS payouts have been disbursed, benefitting over two million local employees at over 150,000 firms, said Heng.
He noted, however, that adjustments to the portions of wages covered by the JSS would be necessary, going forward.
“(We) cannot sustain the JSS at current levels. It draws heavily on our reserves and risks trapping our workers in unviable businesses. Some sectors are also recovering faster than others. I will therefore adjust support based on the projected recovery of the different sectors,” said Heng.
For businesses in the “hardest hit” sectors of aerospace, aviation and tourism, the government will provide 50 per cent wage support for seven more months.
In the built environment sector, 50 per cent of wages will be covered for two more months and this will be lowered to 30 per cent for wages paid up to March 2021. Heng said this would be in line with the phased resumption of construction activities.
Those in the arts and entertainment, food services, land transport, marine and offshore, as well as retail sectors will have 30 per cent of their wages covered for seven more months. Meanwhile, for a “large majority” of the remaining sectors, 10 per cent of wages will be covered up to March 2021.
Heng noted that while the country’s unemployment rate has risen since the start of the pandemic, it has been kept below the peak levels seen during the 2003 SARS outbreak and the 2008 global financial crisis.
He added that with the JSS extension, most businesses here would have received up to 17 months of wage support to help them retain as many employees as possible.
“Even at 10 per cent support, the payouts cover more than half of employers’ (Central Provident Fund) contributions. This ensures that we continue to build up the CPF savings of our workers during the crisis,” said Heng, who is also Singapore’s Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies.
He also urged businesses to make full use of the additional support to train their workers and transform their operations in preparation for a post-COVID-19 world, while also encouraging firms that are doing well to return or donate their JSS payouts.
“Nearly 600 firms have already done so, and I thank them for their sense of community,” said Heng.
Beyond the JSS, businesses can also turn to other existing schemes such as the Enterprise Financing Scheme and Temporary Bridging Loan Programme – both of which are available till March 2021 – for financial assistance.
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