It goes without saying that the pandemic took with it not just lives, but an increasing number of livelihoods as well. Unemployment and retrenchments have grown since the pandemic hit. These days, it is not uncommon to hear of someone who remains unemployed — even after looking for months.
Under the rallying call of Emerging Stronger Together, the Budget 2021 announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat laid out a slew of job support measures to drive innovation in our employment landscape, create more jobs and upskill workers.
#1 SGUnited Jobs and Skills package
SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package aims to support the hiring of 200,000 locals in 2021 and provide another 35,000 with traineeships and training opportunities. Dubbed as a key pillar in Singapore’s industry transformation by DPM Heng, the package will help Singaporeans to acquire new knowledge and broaden their skills as new employment opportunities emerge.
Under the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI), an estimated 110,000 local job seekers were employed within two months from the implementation of the scheme.
An additional $5.4 billion will be allocated to a second tranche of the Jobs and Skills Package, on top of the $3 billion allocated last year. Of this, $5.2 billion will be allocated to the JGI to extend the hiring window by seven months, up to end-September this year.
#2 COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund (CDRF)
To alleviate escalating business costs and overall financial stress, taxi and private hire car drivers will receive:
This new relief package will come as a welcome one, seeing as it is a more generous reiteration of the Special Relief Fund (SRF) that previously gave out $300 per vehicle per month. Note that drivers who are deemed eligible for the SRF will transition to the CDRF automatically — eliminating any pesky paperwork on your part.
Drivers will also be happy to know of the 15% road tax rebate, plus the $360 of added petrol duty rebate over four months.
#3 Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) to be extended for hard-hit sectors
As part of the $11 billion COVID-19 Resilience Package, the JSS will be introduced to help the sectors who continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic’s rampage. Its main goal? To protect jobs and retain local workers through salary subsidies.
According to DPM Heng Swee Keat, the JSS has supported over 155,000 employers for up to 17 months. Over $25 billion has been pledged to the cause so far, with plans to continue covering wages up to March 2021 for most sectors.
This marks the fourth consecutive extension of the JSS, costing the government $700 million. The amount firms will receive mainly depends on which tier they fall under.
For firms in Tier 1 sectors such as aviation, aerospace and tourism:
For firms in Tier 2 sectors such as retail, arts and culture, food services and built environment:
For firms in Tier 3A sectors, which covers employers in all other sectors:
As for the firms in Tier 3B sectors, which mainly cover those who have since bounced back such as supermarkets and Internet companies:
#4 Growth and Transformation Scheme (GTS)
A new phase of industry transformation is upon us, one that will zero in on boosting the value chain as a whole. Each stakeholder in the chain — developers, consultants, contractors and suppliers — have a role to play in driving transformation.
Building on the momentum of the transformation push started five years ago when Singapore launched the Construction Industry Transformation Map, the GTS is introduced to the Built Environment Sector (comprising of construction, facility services, environment, and real estate) to boost productivity by embracing digital processes and upskilling workers.
#5 New innovation and enterprise fellowship programme to groom leaders in Deep Tech areas
As we steamroll towards a more technology-intensive economy, the next course of action is to train future leaders that will one day spearhead that tech shift — particularly in areas such as Cybersecurity, Artificial Intelligence and HealthTech.
Under the new Innovation and Enterprise Fellowship Programme (IFP), National Research Foundation (NRF) will be supporting 500 fellowships over the next five years. This programme involves working closely with partners, accelerators, venture capital firms and Deep Tech startups.
SGInnovate, the programme’s very first partner, saw the launch of the PowerX (Robotics) programme, which helped equip locals with the necessary skills for the robotics and automation sector. If Deep Tech is your calling, be prepared to go through a nine-month programme to learn and apply robotics-related skills on real-world projects before you’re attached to a host company.
#6 Wage Credit Scheme to be extended a year; Capability Transfer Programme to be extended up to end-September 2024
Two schemes will see an extension to support local hiring.
First is the Wage Credit Scheme, which will be extended for a year, at a co-funding level of 15%. The scheme supports wage increments for companies to attract and retain locals.
Secondly, the Capability Transfer Programme (CTP) will be extended to end-September 2024. To add vibrancy and maintain Singapore’s status as an international hub, Capability Transfer Programme (CTP) is introduced to support foreign-to-local skills transfer.
Currently, over 970 locals and more than 140 companies have benefited or are expected to benefit from 40 projects.
#7 Manufacturing S Pass sub-dependency ratio ceiling to see 2-step cut
To reduce reliance on foreign workers and place more emphasis on locals to develop deep skills for the manufacturing sector, the Government will reduce the sub-DRC for manufacturing in two steps, to 18% from 1 Jan 2022, and to 15% from 1 Jan 2023. In short, the number of S Pass holders a company can hire will gradually decrease.
Manufacturing is by no means singled out — DPM Heng added that similar changes are already in process for other sectors such as marine shipyard, construction and services.
#8 Enhanced salaries for healthcare workers
Singapore’s amazing healthcare system can be chalked up to the hard work of our healthcare workers. As the healthcare sector is set to soar to new heights, it is only fitting that their wages follow suit. The government will enhance the salaries of healthcare workers, including the support staff, across public healthcare institutions, publicly funded community hospitals and long-term care service providers.
Emerging stronger with our jobs intact is not without growing pains. As innovation and technological advances stare us down, we ought to acclimate to the new normal and upgrade our skillset for a rapidly transforming job market — one that rewards folks who are not afraid to embrace the many changes that lie ahead.
But hey, if the Singapore Budget’s schemes and initiatives are any indication, it will not be without help from our government.
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