Budget 2021: Singapore's plan for 'emerging stronger'

From wage credit to training opportunities, here's a close look at the fiscal plan

Budget 2021: Singapore's plan for 'emerging stronger'

The pandemic may have brought about Singapore’s first contraction in decades, but the newly unveiled budget this year is pointing to the concrete steps the government is taking to fast-track recovery. Budget 2021, with the theme “Emerging Stronger Together,” resonates optimism.

Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat laid out an $11bn COVID-19 Resilience Package that places the health, safety and livelihood of Singaporeans at the front and centre of the government agenda:

Extending wage support – Jobs Support Scheme

Singapore is spending $700m for the extension of the Jobs Support Scheme. The wage subsidy will remain in place for six months, between April and September, for Tier 1 employers in the hardest hit sectors, such as tourism, aviation and aerospace, which have been struggling to keep workers on the payroll. The 30% wage assistance will be scaled down to 10% in the final three months of the extension.

Meanwhile, employers in the food services, retail, and arts and culture sectors, among others, will continue to receive wage support until June.

Read more: Singapore announces Budget 2021

Enhancing inclusive hiring – Jobs Growth Incentive

A total of $5.2bn was earmarked for the seven-month extension of the Jobs Growth Incentive, which supports employers in hiring 200,000 Singaporean talent, and offering 35,000 training opportunities mostly for mid-career and older employees, persons with disabilities, and ex-offenders.

“With the extension, companies hiring eligible locals will be given up to 12 months of wage support from the month of hire, while mature workers, persons with disabilities and ex-offenders will be given more support – up to 18 months of enhanced wage support,” Heng said.

Other measures for progressive hiring include:

  • Support for silver workers – The government is setting aside an additional $200m in aid for companies that raise the retirement age and promote re-employment of older staff.
  • Support for PWD – The Ministry of Social and Family Development plans to create 1,200 training and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.

Retaining local employees – Wage credit scheme

Funding for wage increases (of at least $50 per Singaporean employee) will continue for another year. The scheme will allow for co-funding pay increases of up to 15%.

Read more: Singapore reviews ‘S Pass’ worker policy

Sharing skills – Capability Transfer Programme

With close to 1,000 locals from more than 140 firms set to reap the benefits of foreign-to-local skills transfer, the Capability Transfer Programme will be expanded through the end of September 2024. The government said it “welcomes expatriates with the right expertise to complement” local talent.

“This will allow us to add vibrancy to the local market, better serve international and regional markets, and enhance Singapore’s attractiveness to global investors,” Heng said.

Updating foreign worker policy – S Pass quota change for manufacturing sector

By lowering the number of S Pass holders hired by manufacturing companies, Singapore is hoping to reduce its reliance on foreign workers. The quota will be slashed to 18% for 2022 and further down to 15% for 2023.

“To achieve our vision of being a global advanced manufacturing hub, firms must make it a priority to develop a strong, highly-skilled local core in their workforce,” Heng said. “We cannot do without foreign workers, especially those with deep skills, but we should moderate further our reliance on them, so as to focus on creating good jobs on locals.”

Looking after frontliners – Healthcare workers’ pay raise

Budget 2021 will also bring about salary increases for nurses and healthcare/support care workers for their “exemplary commitment” in the face of crisis. The raise will cover staff in public healthcare institutions, as well as publicly funded community hospitals and long-term care service providers.

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