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The Budget debate entered its second day on Feb. 23 with several PAP MPs highlighting the jobs situation in Singapore and the need to help workers adjust to a new environment.
In his speech, Pioneer SMC Member of Parliament, Patrick Tay asked the government for more support for job seekers as well as PMEs (professional, managerial, executive) displaced by changing economic conditions.
Providing permanent short-term support for jobseekers
Tay argued that specific support should be funnelled to jobseekers at various stages of unemployment.
This could come in the form of customised career counselling and training that would equip jobseekers to take on jobs in growth areas and redesigned roles.
Afterwards, jobseekers would benefit from Career Conversion Programmes, so they make good career matches, placed in new roles and undergo structured, on-the-job training for the transition.
Tay also suggested that the outcomes of the participants should be monitored, so the government could intervene and support them in a timely manner.
As for employers, he hoped they could do their part by recognising vocational certifications of mid-careerists who have upskilled or reskilled themselves and want to enter different sectors, such as tech.
The government could also consider incentivising more employers to send their employees for training, by providing higher funding support for Absentee Payroll and providing maximum funding for courses relevant to sectors where there is a shortage of local PMEs.
“This enhanced funding of both training and absentee payroll can also be extended to sectors and companies facing difficult cyclical challenges such as in the electronics sector,” he said.
Supporting displaced workers for re-employment
In addition to assisting jobseekers, Tay also called for more support for displaced workers seeking re-employment.
He urged the government to provide short-term re-employment support for workers who were displaced so that their needs are met while seeking employment.
With the support, it would increase the likelihood of PMEs looking for jobs that are a good match to their skill sets or which offer progression opportunities.
Tay said there are some concerns that with unemployment support, workers will remain unemployed for longer periods, making it harder for them to re-enter the job market and causing a strain on government resources.
However, he likened the support to the Covid-19 Recovery Grant (CRG), which provided temporary financial support for workers who experienced involuntary job loss, no-pay leave, or income loss.
To be eligible for the grant, unemployed workers must prove that they have actively participated in job search or training, or attempted to improve their business revenue, if self-employed.
As such, in his speech, he asked the Government to “go a step further” and introduce a permanent scheme that would provide short-term unemployment support for all workers who are involuntarily displaced, including PMEs.
The unemployed workers could similarly be required to prove that they are actively trying to re-enter the job market. Tay acknowledged that a scheme of such scale will be challenging to introduce, but urged the government to “seriously consider” the proposal.
Support for gig workers
Next, Pasir Ris-Punggol MP Yeo Wan Ling highlighted the challenges of gig workers and urged the government to do more in supporting them.
She noted that many Self-Employed Persons (SEP) now no longer have full control over their terms of service as they depend on platform partners to connect them with gigs, they are less skilled or have no core technical skills, and are price takers from the platforms they are serving.
As such, she mooted the idea of supporting SEPs and improving their productivity through upskilling and providing a level playing field to mitigate their business costs.
One suggestion was to expand training allowances for self-sponsored trainees to include SEPs, so that they are able to take a few days off for upskilling.
Deeper support for critical skills
Yeo also suggested considering deeper support for SEPs' upskilling in critical skills such as digitisation, especially for SEPs working in sectors where there have been technological disruptions such as the media and transport industries.
She urged the government to consider developing skills frameworks for SEPs in craft and trade-based professions such as photographers, videographers, plumbers, and mechanics and incorporating apprenticeship programmes.
She also asked the government to consider providing GST rebates for SEPs who are not GST registered to buffer the increase in costs for taxi and private hire drivers specifically and consider sharing the costs with the platform providers.
Yeo also requested to review the 60 per cent fixed expense deduction ratio to better reflect the thinning margins experienced by drivers, especially with global inflationary pressures.
“Make training more meaningful and not just clocking the hours”: Union leader and NMP Abdul Samad
In the same vein, Nominated Member of Parliament and Vice President of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab described the Job Skills Integrator Programme as his “personal favourite item” in the Budget Speech.
In his support for the programme, Abdul Samad said that it required an intermediary body like NTUC to ensure that training benefits both workers and employers.
After workers attend the training, he hoped that they will progressively achieve better wages, welfare and work prospects, which he described as the 3Ws.
“This would also make training more meaningful and not just clocking the hours and collecting allowances,” he added.
Abdul Samad also urged workers to continue to learn, unlearn and relearn skills to broaden their knowledge that will increase their value in their current workplace.
In the Malay portion of his speech, Abdul Samad urged those working in the “platform industry”, presumably gig workers, to contribute to their CPF as it is a “responsible” thing to do so as to ensure that they have enough savings for homeownership and retirement.
‘We should not see this as a restriction on their salaries,” he said. “It is a responsible move by the government,” he added.
He ended his speech by asking the government on measures to support people with physical disabilities, and support for families who have children with "hidden" disabilities like autism spectrum disorder and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
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Top image from MCI
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