Singapore Budget 2016: More low-wage workers to qualify for Workfare Income Supplement scheme that tops up their income

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SINGAPORE - Low-wage workers and people with disabilities will receive more support in the workforce, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced in his Budget speech on Thursday (March 24).

To achieve that, the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) and Workfare Training Support (WTS) schemes will be enhanced, he said.

WIS, a permanent scheme that tops up the wages of low-income workers, will see the biggest changes.

The qualifying income ceiling will be raised from $1,900 a month to $2,000. This will mean that the scheme will continue to help the bottom 20 per cent of workers, Mr Heng said, while providing some support to those in the 30th income percentile. He expects WIS to benefit some 460,000 Singaporeans.

Eligible workers will also get bigger payouts, which vary depending on age and income. Employees can get up to $3,600 a year, compared to $3,500 today.

For example, a worker earning $1,000 to $1,600 a month will receive increases in payouts between $100 and $500.

Giving another example, Mr Heng said that a 55-year-old worker earning $1,200 a month will now get $2,900 a year from WIS, 40 per cent in cash and the rest in CPF. The worker will therefore have $3,500 more in his CPF account at age 65.

The qualifying criteria will be simplified, Mr Heng added. To qualify currently, a worker has to work two out of three consecutive months, three out of six consecutive months or six months in a calendar year.

"We will now pay WIS for every month worked," Mr Heng said. Workers will also get payments monthly, instead of quarterly.

The budget for WIS will be $770 million a year. The changes will apply to work done from Jan 1, 2017.

Moving on, Mr Heng said that many people with disabilities want to contribute through work. "We should support them." They will benefit from the WIS enhancements too.

The extension of the Special Employment Credit (SEC) to the end of 2019, announced earlier in Mr Heng's speech, will benefit people with disabilities too. Their employers will continue to receive the SEC of up to 16 per cent of the employee's wages.

The WTS scheme, started in 2010 to aid low-wage Singaporeans aged above 35 upgrade their skills through training, will now be open to people with disabilities earning low wages who are aged 13 and above. This will better support them in their learning, Mr Heng said.

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