SINGAPORE - Wage subsidies under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) will be extended by up to seven months to help employers to retain their local workers.
The subsidies will now cover wages paid up to March 2021 for firms in sectors harder hit by the Covid-19 crisis, and up to December this year for sectors which are managing well, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Monday (Aug 17).
The support - which will range from 10 to 50 per cent for wages paid from September onwards - will be adjusted based on the projected recovery of the different sectors, said Mr Heng in a ministerial statement on how the Government will continue to support businesses and workers.
"We cannot sustain the JSS at current levels," he said. "It draws heavily on our reserves and risks trapping our workers in unviable businesses. Some sectors are also recovering faster than others."
The subsidy applies to the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages paid to each Singaporean or permanent resident employee.
Firms in the aerospace, aviation and tourism sectors will receive 50 per cent of wages paid from September until March.
Those in the built environment sector will receive 50 per cent of wages paid in September and October, and then 30 per cent of wages paid until March, as construction activity resumes in phases.
The arts and entertainment, food services, land transport, marine and offshore, and retail sectors will receive 30 per cent of wages paid until March.
Sectors managing well - biomedical sciences, precision engineering, electronics, financial services, infocomm technology and media, online retail and supermarkets - will receive 10 per cent of wages paid until December this year.
Other firms will receive 10 per cent of wages paid until March.
The scheme, which was first introduced in the Budget statement in February and enhanced subsequently, has subsidised between 25 per cent and 75 per cent of wages paid for 10 months.
It was to cover wages paid until this month, with the final payout in October.
There will now be additional payouts in March and June next year for relevant firms.
"I urge all businesses to make full use of this additional support to retain and upskill your workers, and to transform your operations for the post-Covid-19 world. This will enable you to spring back faster when the recovery comes," said Mr Heng.
The latest JSS enhancement comes after calls from people, including business leaders and economists, to extend the support in order to protect jobs as the impact of the pandemic drags on.
Mr Heng on Monday said more than $16 billion of the $23.5 billion allocated for the scheme has been disbursed so far, benefiting over two million local workers in more than 150,000 firms.
While the resident unemployment rate has risen from 3.3 per cent in March to an estimated 3.9 per cent in June, it is still below the peak levels seen during the Sars outbreak and global financial crisis, he noted.
Nearly 600 firms have also returned or donated their JSS payouts, he added, thanking these companies for their sense of community. He urged firms which are coping well to do likewise.
Even at 10 per cent support, the wage subsidies still cover more than half of employers' Central Provident Fund contributions for workers, he said.
"This ensures that we continue to build up the CPF savings of our workers during the crisis," he said.
Employers can refer to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore's JSS website for more details on the computation and payment schedule.
Businesses can also tap other existing schemes such as the enhanced Enterprise Financing Scheme and Temporary Bridging Loan Programme, which aim to provide firms with access to credit and financing for cashflow needs.
These are available until March next year.