SINGAPORE - A new $36 million training support scheme will be launched to help freelancers upgrade their skills in the next three months, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced on Tuesday (Mar 3).
It will give all freelancers a training allowance of $7.50 an hour when they attend courses under the SkillsFuture Series, as well as selected sector-specific training programmes, she said.
"The immediate concern of all (freelancers) is the significant drop in earnings due to the Covid-19 outbreak... Not only will this scheme supplement their income, it can help them become more future-ready," she said in Parliament.
Mrs Teo was responding to concerns raised by MPs, such as Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC), Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and Ms Tin Pei Ling (MacPherson), during the debate on the Manpower Ministry's budget.
There is no cap on how much training freelancers can sign up for, the minister said.
The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) ,which has established outreach channels for freelancers, such as the NTUC's Freelancers and Self-Employed Unitand the National Instructors and Coaches Association, will administer the scheme and give details on how to apply soon.
In another move to help freelancers, Mrs Teo said those who get on board the pilot Contribute As You Earn (CAYE) scheme will have their contributions matched dollar for dollar by the Government this year, capped at $600.
She also said, in her response to Mr Chen Show Mao (Aljunied GRC) who asked for an update, that in January 2020 alone, when CAYE was launched, about 400 freelancers made contributions.
All will receive matched Medisave contributions from the Government.
She added that about 3,000 freelancers working with government agencies each year are expected to make CAYE contributions.
Under the CAYE scheme, freelancers working directly for the Government and public sector agencies will have a portion of their fees channelled automatically to their Medisave accounts to save for their healthcare needs.
In the light of the coronavirus situation, more freelancers are expected to qualify for the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme, which encourages lower-income workers to stay employed and strengthen their retirement adequacy, said Mrs Teo.
The qualifying-income cap and maximum annual payouts both went up from January 2020, she added.
They will also receive an additional 20 per cent of their WIS payment for work done in 2019, with a minimum payment of $100, which will be given in cash.
Mrs Teo said the Government is concerned about the longer-term concerns of freelancers.
The Tripartite Workgroup on Self-Employed Persons, which was set up in 2017, had found that most freelancers did not expect their clients to provide employment benefits or treat them as regular employees, she noted.
Instead, they had asked the work group to focus on addressing their practical concerns, a preference that has shaped the work group's recommendations.
For instance, the Tripartite Alliance for Dispute Management extended its services to freelancers to help resolve payment-related disputes, while the Tripartite Standard on Contracting with a self-employed person was also launched to promote fair contracting norms.
"We call on more service buyers to do their part by providing self-employed persons with clear written contracts. We also encourage service buyers to adopt the standard, to be more attractive among self-employed persons," said Mrs Teo.