Parliament: New Workfare scheme and other measures to help uplift low-wage workers

The new scheme, called Workfare Skills Support, will begin on July 1 and will provide more help for workers who complete training leading to full qualifications.
The new scheme, called Workfare Skills Support, will begin on July 1 and will provide more help for workers who complete training leading to full qualifications.ST PHOTO: JOSEPH CHUA

SINGAPORE - More measures will be taken to help uplift low-wage workers, including a new Workfare scheme, said Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad in Parliament on Tuesday (March 3).

The new scheme, called Workfare Skills Support, will begin on July 1 and will provide more help for workers who complete training leading to full qualifications.

Mr Zaqy said: "This is because we have found that those who acquire full qualifications are more likely to earn higher wages."

This new scheme will replace the existing Workfare Training Support Scheme, which was introduced in 2010 to encourage companies to send their lower-wage workers for training.

Enhancements under the new scheme include raising the funding for training allowance from $4.50 to $6 per hour, to offset the opportunity costs of workers' training

It will also raise the Training Commitment Award for Full Qualifications from $200 to $500. The annual cap for the award will also be increased from $400 to $1,000, as completion of the qualifications has led to higher wages for these workers.

There are also plans to extend the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) to more sectors, including those that cannot apply the wage model on a mandatory basis.

This would mark a shift in approach for the PWM, which is a ladder that sets out minimum pay and training requirements for workers at different skill levels.

It is currently mandatory for the cleaning, security and landscaping sectors here, and will soon apply to the lift and escalator maintenance industry. So far, some 78,000 workers have benefited from progressive wages under the model.

 
 
 

Mr Zaqy said that the sectors that implemented PWM have found that a mandatory approach, where a regulator imposes a uniform obligation to comply with the PWM, delivers results most readily.

But the PWM should be "a broader movement where the community can play a part as responsible consumers", he said in response to Mr Chong Kee Hiong (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) and Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), who asked for the model to be expanded to more sectors.

"Under this approach, we want to create a virtuous circle, where companies that voluntarily pay progressive wages and provide job progression pathways to their lower-wage workers are recognised and rewarded by consumers who support them by purchasing their products or services. This will in turn spur more companies to be progressive, as the best way to advance their business interests," he said.

There will also be greater focus on the well-being of lower-wage workers, such as providing proper rest areas for outsourced workers like cleaners under the Workcare initiative.

All public agencies and town councils will take the lead in providing rest areas by end-2020, according to tripartite guidelines, he said.

Already, West Coast and Ang Mo Kio town councils have partnered MOM to spruce up 20 rest areas for their outsourced cleaners.

To accelerate the provision of rest areas in other workplaces, the ministry will launch a new grant to support companies in setting up such areas.

Mr Zaqy said: "To further accelerate the provision of rest areas in other workplaces, the Ministry of Manpower will launch a new Workcare Grant later this year, with a view towards legislating this in time to come."