Budget 2019 expected to give more support for 'vulnerable' PMETs

For the past nine years, the percentage share of PMETs among all retrenched workers has been rising, with the share of PMETs among retrenched workers now surpassing that for lower-skilled workers, according to a report by DBS.
For the past nine years, the percentage share of PMETs among all retrenched workers has been rising, with the share of PMETs among retrenched workers now surpassing that for lower-skilled workers, according to a report by DBS.PHOTO: ST FILE

More "forceful policy measures" are expected to tackle the rising vulnerability of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) in the upcoming Singapore Budget 2019, according to a report by DBS.

This comes as PMETs have become an "exceptionally vulnerable" segment of the labour force amid slowing growth momentum, said DBS senior economist Irvin Seah.

For the past nine years, the percentage share of PMETs among all retrenched workers has been rising, with the share of PMETs among retrenched workers now surpassing that for lower-skilled workers.

"This may suggest that this segment of the labour force is increasingly facing more difficulties in maintaining their employability," said Mr Seah, author of the report.

"This seems to defy conventional wisdom that being better skilled, the PMETs would be relatively more employable."

This Singapore Budget statement will be delivered on Feb 18 in Parliament by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Last week, Mr Heng said that the upcoming Budget will focus on the country's growing needs in education and healthcare, as well as security and defence.

For the past nine years, the percentage share of PMETs among all retrenched workers has been rising, with the share of PMETs among retrenched workers now surpassing that for lower-skilled workers.

Another priority will be to help people face changes in the global economy, he said.

Mr Seah expects further enhancement to schemes such as the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) and the Adapt and Grow initiative, which aim to help job seekers re-skill and acquire the necessary knowledge and competencies to take on new jobs.

The DBS report suggested that the level of wage support could be increased, while more training grants could be provided to upgrade skills and additional resources directed at job matching. A temporary deferment or extension of income tax payment, or a one-off tax rebate for retrenched professionals, could also help.

As for skilled foreign workers, an upward adjustment in the minimum salary requirement for employment pass holders or tighter requirements beyond the Jobs Bank could be considered, said Mr Seah.

With disruptive technologies that could potentially render jobs redundant, there is a need to continue investing in education and skills upgrading, he said.

Mr Seah noted that the upcoming Budget is likely to address longer-term structural issues instead of dwelling on the rising economic risk in the global environment.

"Nonetheless, with the surpluses accrued in the past budgets, the Government is in a good position to roll out strong counter-cyclical fiscal stimulus should economic conditions warrant that," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2019, with the headline 'Budget 2019 expected to give more support for 'vulnerable' PMETs'. Print Edition | Subscribe