Firms that hire more locals in the coming months will get help in paying up to half of their wages, in a clear signal to companies to bring forward their hiring plans and create more jobs for Singaporeans.
At the same time, jobs will spring up and investments will flow Singapore's way if it stays open and competitive, the Government said as Parliament yesterday concluded a week-long debate on the President's Address that frequently returned to jobs and strengthening the Singaporean core amid a recession induced by Covid-19.
For new local hires over the next six months, companies could get up to $15,000 for each worker below the age of 40, and up to $30,000 for each older worker, under the new $1 billion Jobs Growth Incentive scheme.
The payouts will be made over 12 months from next March and will be automatically computed each month based on a company's Central Provident Fund contributions, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (Iras) said yesterday.
Essentially, the Government will co-pay one quarter of the first $5,000 of gross monthly wages for one year, with this doubled to 50 per cent for each new mature hire.
The scheme was first flagged by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat last month to boost hiring of locals in growth sectors, on top of wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme, which will cover wages paid up to March next year.
It is a step up in terms of level of salary support compared with the Enhanced Hiring Incentive announced earlier in May.
Wrapping up the debate in Parliament, National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said employers have an important role to play to build up their Singaporean core - particularly given the uncertain times - and must retrench Singaporeans only as a last resort.
But while MOM has said it is taking a closer scrutiny of firms whose Singaporean core has been weakening, the sustainable path forward for Singapore is to grow the economy by staying open to foreigners and investments, he said.
"I don't think we just want to settle with having the cake and eating it, but we want to grow and enlarge the cake, thereby giving Singapore and Singaporeans a bigger and better - and also the best - slice of it."
He stressed: "Strengthening our Singaporean core is not, and must not be, something which divides us."
The point was also driven home by Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung, who said the Singapore way has not been to turn inward, but to be open and hold its own against the competition.
"Don't make ourselves a small pond, live in the pond and feel we are great, we are a big fish in the pond, but open up to the lagoon, open up to the sea, have a much more exciting, diverse ecosystem, but invest in our own people, hold our own," said Mr Ong, who is also a Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) board member. "That is what we have been doing for decades."
Mr Ong said MAS will ensure fair hiring opportunities while grooming Singaporeans as leaders and specialists in the financial sector.
Joining the debate, Communications and Information Minister S. Iswaran said Singapore can do better if it finds the right balance between openness and inclusivity by preserving a sense of fairness, whether in access to opportunities or the way the benefits of growth are distributed.
To be eligible for the Jobs Incentive Scheme, firms must increase the headcount of their local workforce between this month and February, compared with August. They must also raise the size of their local workforce earning at least $1,400 in gross monthly wages.
The scheme will apply only to firms that were set up on or before Aug 16, and firms must continue to meet the eligibility criteria for the 12-month period to receive the full amount of support.
Firms can visit the Iras website for more information.
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