SINGAPORE: Self-employed people, firms and first-time jobseekers will receive more financial support, announced Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Thursday (Mar 26), amid an economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

This is part of a S$48 billion Resilience Budget to deal with what is likely to be the “worst economic contraction since independence”, said Mr Heng, and follows the S$4 billion Stabilisation and Support Package for workers and firms announced during Budget this year.

READ: COVID-19 Resilience Budget: ‘Landmark’ S$48 billion package to tide Singapore through ‘unprecedented’ crisis

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Under the Resilience Budget, those who are self-employed will receive direct cash support through a Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, which offers S$1,000 per month to eligible self-employed people for nine months.

“Some of them have less means and family support, and need help to tide over this difficult period,” said Mr Heng, adding that S$1.2 billion will be set aside for this scheme.

“Overall, we expect to reach out to most of the self-employed persons who depend on self-employment for their livelihood and have less means and family support,” he said.

In addition, self-employed people will receive enhanced hourly training allowances under the Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme, for them to use the downtime to train and upskill.

From May 1, the hourly training allowance will be raised from S$7.50 to S$10. The training support scheme will also be extended to December this year.

“The enhanced training allowance is on top of the already generous training subsidies, which cover up to 90 per cent of fees.

“In addition, trainees will be able to tap on their SkillsFuture Credit to further offset the course fees,” said Mr Heng, who is also Minister for Finance.

He added that S$48 million will be set aside for this enhanced scheme.

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KEEPING WORKERS EMPLOYED

The Jobs Support Scheme, introduced during Budget this year, will be enhanced and extended, said Mr Heng. The scheme aims to help firms retain local workers during this period of uncertainty. 

“The situation now calls for bolder and more aggressive moves to save jobs and keep workers in employment,” he said.

For firms, the Government will co-fund 25 per cent of every local employee’s wage, up from 8 per cent. Firms in the food services sector will receive 50 per cent co-funding per local worker, while firms in the aviation and tourism sectors – the most badly affected sectors – will receive 75 per cent co-funding.

More workers will also qualify for co-funding, with the qualifying wage ceiling raised from S$3,600 to S$4,600. The median wage in Singapore is S$4,600.

The Jobs Support Scheme will also be extended for two quarters until the end of 2020. Employers will receive payouts in May, July and October.

Effectively, a total of S$15.1 billion will be allocated to 1.9 million local workers under the Jobs Support Scheme, more than twice the support provided during the Global Financial Crisis.

“With this support from the Government, I urge employers to do your part to hold on to your workers,” said Mr Heng.

READ: COVID-19 Budget: Unemployment benefits increase; higher cash payouts for adult Singaporeans

READ: President Halimah Yacob gives ‘in-principle support’ to draw on reserves for second COVID-19 assistance package

MORE JOBS FOR FIRST-TIME JOBSEEKERS

For first-time jobseekers concerned about the current job market, the Government will offer traineeships and provide more help to find employment for them.

The SGUnited Traineeships will give young people the opportunity to “gain valuable work experience” and give “an added boost for employers to emerge stronger from this crisis”, said Mr Heng.

“Under this programme, Workforce Singapore will co-share manpower costs with enterprises that offer traineeships targeted at local first-time jobseekers this year,” he said, adding that he hoped to support up to 8,000 traineeships this year, across large and small enterprises.

“This will include science and technology traineeships in our R&D labs, deep-tech startups, accelerators and incubators,” he said, with more details to be announced by the Ministry of Manpower.

READ: Singapore’s reserves are for rainy days, COVID-19 already a ‘mighty storm’: DPM Heng

In addition, the Government will set up an SGUnited Jobs initiative, to create about 10,000 jobs over the next year, with the public sector taking the lead.

“Our agencies have been planning our manpower needs early, and there is a range of jobs which we need to fill in emerging areas.

“We will accelerate hiring plans to fill these roles, while giving our people meaningful employment opportunities,” he said.

This includes long-term roles in areas such as social services, early childhood education and ICT to enhance the provision of essential services, and short-term temporary jobs like health declaration assistants, temporary management support officers and Transport Ambassadors to handle the increase in COVID-19 related operations.

At the same time, the Government is also working with the Singapore Business Federation and Trade Associations and Chambers to identify jobs in the private sector.

“These may come from businesses recruiting for the eventual recovery, or with short-term manpower needs due to disruptions in labour supply,” he said.

He added that Workforce Singapore will be holding a virtual career fair on Friday with more than 2,200 job vacancies, with a focus on short-term temporary jobs that are immediately available. Jobseekers looking for long-term roles may visit mycareersfuture.sg instead.

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