SINGAPORE — The Singapore government will be extending more help for local workers who have lost their jobs or fallen on hard times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the moves are an extension of the COVID-19 Support Grant (CSG) and an expansion of the qualifying criteria for the Workfare Special Payment scheme. A $1 billion Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) programme will also be launched to encourage firms in growing sectors such as biomedical sciences and financial services to hire more local workers.
“Even with our best efforts, retrenchments will be inevitable. As our Labour Movement puts it, we cannot protect every job, but we will protect every worker,” said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in his publicly broadcast Ministerial Statement on Monday (17 August), during which he announced the additional measures.
More support for workers
Heng said that the CSG, which is meant to help Singaporeans who are unemployed or have suffered significant income loss, would be extended until December.
From October, the extension will be open to both existing CSG recipients and new applicants. To qualify, unemployed applicants have to show evidence of their effort in searching for a job or obtaining training.
Since the CSG was introduced in May, more than $90 million has been disbursed to help over 60,000 residents, said Heng. He added that the Ministry of Social and Family Development would share more details on the CSG extension in early September.
“Our labour market is likely to remain weak beyond 2020. We are studying how to continue supporting employees and self-employed persons who are most vulnerable,” said Heng.
For low-wage workers, the eligibility criteria for the $3,000 Workfare Special Payment will be expanded to include those who were not on the Workfare Income Supplement scheme in 2019 but have received, or will be receiving, Workfare for work done this year. Currently, only those on Workfare for work done in 2019 are eligible.
Heng also noted the government’s efforts in working with its tripartite partners to help displaced workers. On this note, the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment will be updated to incorporate NTUC’s Fair Retrenchment Framework, he added.
Set up earlier this year, NTUC’s Job Security Council has also matched over 20,000 displaced or at-risk workers with new opportunities, said Heng.
Despite the pandemic’s impact on the economy, Heng pointed to several “bright spots” amid the “severe economic situation”.
“Our biomedical sciences, financial services, and ICT sectors continue to need more workers. The public healthcare and long-term care sectors are hiring. Some firms in the F&B and manufacturing sectors are growing and innovating,” he noted.
With this in mind, the JGI will support hiring in these growing sectors, with emphasis placed on creating jobs for mature workers.
For firms in these sectors, the government will co-pay up to 25 per cent of salaries of all new local hires for one year, up to a cap. For those aged 40 and above, the co-payment amount will be up to 50 per cent.
Heng added that the Ministry of Manpower would provide more details on the JGI later in August.
To better connect workers to the emerging job opportunities, 24 SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres have been set up in the heartlands.
“I encourage jobseekers to visit these centres and make the best of the resources available – to find a suitable job, traineeship, attachment or training. This way, you are better prepared when the job market recovers,” said Heng.
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