Covid-19 Budget measures helped cushion recession's impact, save jobs: Finance Ministry

Singapore saw unemployment rates of 4.1 per cent in 2020 and 3.5 per cent last year. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The eight Budgets rolled out between 2020 and last year to cushion the impact of Covid-19 have significantly boosted Singapore's growth and reduced resident unemployment over the past two years.

In a report published on Thursday (Feb 17), a day ahead of the Budget statement, the Finance Ministry (MOF) set out details of the effect that Singapore's fiscal measures and monetary policy have had on the country's gross domestic product (GDP), noting that the economy grew 7.6 per cent last year.

This would have been 6.8 per cent without support, it said.

The country also saw a 4.1 per cent fall in GDP in 2020, which would have been 10.7 per cent otherwise without these support schemes.

The ministry also estimated that resident unemployment would have reached 6.1 per cent in 2020 and 7.5 per cent last year had there been no policy support.

Instead, Singapore saw unemployment rates of 4.1 per cent in 2020 and 3.5 per cent last year. Key contributors to last year's unemployment rates included support measures such as the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) and Jobs Growth Incentive, as well as other fiscal and monetary measures, MOF said.

"With more local workers remaining employed than otherwise, the measures also mitigated the potential loss of human capital and helped more workers and their families through the crisis," it added.

Its report also delved into the impact of specific support schemes, such as the JSS to subsidise salaries, with more for workers in hardest-hit sectors like aviation, tourism and food and beverage; the SGUnited Jobs and Skills package for jobseekers; and several loan financing schemes for businesses.

The $28 billion JSS payouts between April 2020 and December last year saved 165,000 local jobs in the first 10 months of the pandemic, it said.

It also served as a buffer against wage reductions, with every 10 percentage point increase in subsidies translating to higher average local wages of 1.7 per cent to 5.3 per cent. This works out to between $70 and $150.

Meanwhile, the SGUnited Jobs and Skills package - a suite of schemes offering traineeship opportunities and job placements, among other things - was found to have helped fresh graduates enter a weak labour market.

By the end of October last year, it had filled more than 166,300 jobs and skills opportunities. Of these, 122,300 were job placements.

However, employment across the various schemes was mixed. After six months, more than 80 per cent of those on traineeships and mid-career company attachment programmes were employed.

But mid-career individuals on the company training programme did less well, with nearly half remaining unemployed six months after the programme ended.

Three financing schemes - the Temporary Bridging Loan Programme, Enterprise Financing Scheme-Working Capital Loan and Enterprise Financing Scheme-Trade Loan - also supported more than 27,000 enterprises in accessing loans of more than $24.7 billion between March 2020 and December last year.

The report also noted that the crisis is not over, and the emergence of the Omicron Covid-19 variant is a timely reminder that Singapore has to stay vigilant as it recovers from the pandemic.

"Currently, the focus remains to learn to live with the virus, manage the risks from new variants and enable a safe reopening of the economy. There is also a need to keep a close watch over the longer-term implications of Covid-19," it added.

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