Budget 2019: More Support for Workers

Budget 2019 continues to give workers support to prepare them for a competitive and tech-intensive environment.
By Fawwaz Baktee 18 Feb 2019

More Professional Conversion Programmes (PCPs), an extended Career Support Programme (CSP), extended Special Employment Credits scheme and an enhanced Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme – these were announced for workers by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget speech on 18 February 2019.

Mr Heng said: “Our ultimate goal is to enable our people to continue to have good jobs and to be at their best … We want our people to have the skills, knowledge and attitude to adapt and thrive in the competitive and technology-intensive environment.”

Careers for Workers

The Government will be launching new PCPs in new growth areas such as blockchain, embedded software and prefabrication this year. Since 2007, over 100 PCPs have been launched in about 30 sectors.

According to Mr Heng, the PCPs are a way for the Government to enable experienced workers to build on their skills and move into new growth areas.

The Government will also extend the CSP for another two years, until March 2021.

The CSP was launched in 2015 as part of the Adapt and Grow initiative to provide employers with wage support to hire eligible professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) who are mature, retrenched or in long-term unemployment.

Through the CSP, the Government will pay between 10 per cent to 50 per cent of the new employee’s salary for up to one and a half years.

Additionally, all transformation efforts supported by Enterprise Singapore’s Enterprise Development Grant must include positive outcomes for workers, such as wage increase, starting from 1 April next year.

Support for Older Workers

To continue supporting older workers in gaining employment, the Government will extend the Special Employment Credit (SEC) and the Additional Special Employment Credit (ASEC) schemes until December 2020.

Mr Heng also announced that the Government would top up the SEC Fund by $366 million. 

The SEC scheme has been supporting employers in hiring older Singaporean workers since 2011.

“The Government will study better forms of support to continue to help workers remain productive, earn more and save more for retirement,” said Mr Heng.

He added that the Government would review the relevance and structure of the SEC and ASEC schemes in consultation with the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers.

CPF Top Up

The finance minister also announced that eligible Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 years old with less than $60,000 of retirement savings in their CPF accounts would get a CPF top of up to $1,000.

This will be credited into the Special Account for members aged 50 to 54, and the Retirement Account for members aged 55 to 64.

Closing the Pay Gap

From January 2020, the qualifying income cap for the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme will be raised to $2,300 from the current $2,000.

The maximum payout has also been raised across the eligible age bands of 35 and above. Depending on their age or income, eligible workers can receive up to $4,000 a year in WIS payout.

The payouts for self-employed persons will remain at two-thirds of the employed worker’s WIS payout and will also increase correspondingly.

As part of the Bicentennial Bonus, eligible workers on the WIS will receive an additional 10 per cent for their work done in 2018, with a minimum payment of $100.

Foreign Worker Policy Changes

The Government will be looking to reduce the services sector’s dependency on foreign workers, announced Mr Heng in his speech.

By January 2020, the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) for the services sector will be reduced to 38 per cent to the current 40 per cent. It will be further reduced to 35 per cent in 2021.

The S Pass sub-DRC for the services sector will also be reduced to 13 per cent in Jan 2020, from the current 15 per cent. It will further be reduced to 10 per cent in 2021.

Read more on the coverage of Budget 2019 at LabourBeat.org.