Singapore enhances COVID-19 support measures

The government is offering further help to employers to retain and recruit workers amidst a pro-longed crisis

Singapore enhances COVID-19 support measures

The Singapore government is extending employee support measures to businesses amidst a prolonged crisis.

On Monday (17 August) Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced that the government will offer more wage offsets, encourage hiring initiatives, as well as better support for retrenched workers.

In the ministerial statement, Heng made clear that the government measures aim to help businesses in sectors that are hardest hit by the pandemic.

READ MORE: 'Fortitude' Budget tackles job support amid recession

Wage offset
Firstly, the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) will be extended by up to seven months to help protect more jobs. The scheme will thus help employers partially cover wages up till March 2021.

“[The JSS] draws heavily on our reserves and risks trapping our workers in unviable businesses,” Heng said. “Some sectors are also recovering faster than others. I will therefore adjust support based on the projected recovery of the different sectors.”

Wage support will be adjusted as follows:

- Hardest-hit firms in the aerospace, aviation, and tourism sectors will get 50% wage support for seven more months.

- The built environment sector will get 50% wage support for two more months. This will be lowered to 30% up to March 2021. This is in line with the phased resumption of construction activities, said Heng.

- The arts and entertainment, food services, land transport, marine and offshore, and retail sectors will receive 30% wage support for seven more months.

Remaining sectors will get 10% support for seven more months.
For the companies that are “managing well”, such as those in biomedical sciences, financial services, and ICT, the government will provide 10% support for four more months, for wages paid up to December 2020.

Including the extension, Heng stated that the Jobs Support Scheme will help employers cover wages for a total of 17 months.

While the wage offset ranges widely for firms — from 10% to 75% — he said that even at minimum support, “the payouts cover more than half of employersCPF contributions”. This ensures that employers continue to build up workers’ CPF savings during the crisis.

“I urge all businesses to make full use of this additional support to retain and upskill your workers, and to transform your operations for the post-COVID-19 world,” he said.

“This will enable you to spring back faster when the recovery comes. For firms that are coping well, I encourage you to return or donate your JSS payouts.”

READ MORE: Revealed: Top companies hiring during COVID-19

New recruitment initiative
Next, the government will be launching the Jobs Growth Incentive to encourage hiring. The initiative has a “special focus on our mature workers”, said the minister.

The new $1 billion programme will support firms to increase their headcount of local workers over the next six months through several initiatives:

  • The government will co-pay up to 25% of salaries of all new local hires for one year, subject to a cap
  • Co-payment of salaries will be up to 50% for employees aged 40 and above.

The Ministry of Manpower will offer more details later this month.

READ MORE: Survivor guilt: How to deal with company layoffs

Support to vulnerable workers
Despite the extended government measures, Heng acknowledged that retrenchments “will be inevitable” for some, which is why they will continue to work closely with tripartite partners to help affected workers.

The Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment will be updated to incorporate the Fair Retrenchment Framework proposed by NTUC.

Additionally, the government will be extending the COVID-19 support grant until December 2020 to help Singaporeans who are unemployed or have “suffered significant income loss”.

From October 1, the grant will be available to both existing recipients as well as new applicants. Unemployed applicants must simply demonstrate their job search or training efforts, said Heng.

More low-wage workers will also get access to a $3,000 workfare special payment. Eligibility for this has been expanded to include individuals who were were not on the income supplement scheme last year, but have fallen into the group this year.

“As our labour movement puts it, we cannot protect every job, but we will protect every worker,” he said. “For those of you who have fallen on hard times, we will continue to support you and walk this journey with you.”

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