A billion-dollar scheme to help employees shift from businesses that were downsizing due to the pandemic, to sectors that are continuing to expand, has seen 50,000 local hires by 14,000 firms in its first month alone.
Around half of the new hires were also aged 40 and over, with Manpower Minister Josephine Teo describing these preliminary figures as a good start for the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI), which was launched in September. Top hiring sectors included food services, wholesale trade, professional services, construction and education.
"We will continue to profile sectors that are hiring, and will start with food services, which saw a pickup in hiring activities as Singapore enters phase three of its reopening," said Mrs Teo, highlighting that there were over 9,200 openings in the sector available on government jobs portal MyCareersFuture.sg as at end-December.
Slightly more than a third are PMET - professional, manager, executive and technician - roles with salaries of up to $6,500.
The JGI scheme aims to spur firms to hire more locals, with $1 billion set aside for wage support.
Firms that hire local workers from last September till the end of next month receive a subsidy of 25 per cent of the first $5,000 of their gross monthly salaries for up to a year.
The co-payment rises to 50 per cent for workers aged 40 and above. The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said hiring figures for the later months of the scheme are still being tallied. Mrs Teo said MOM is assessing if the scheme needs to be extended as the broader-based Jobs Support Scheme (JSS), intended to save jobs by helping firms co-pay wages, tapers off.
The JSS, which made its first payout last April, has disbursed more than $21.5 billion of the allocated $23.5 billion. Last October, over $5.5 billion was paid out to co-pay the wages of 1.9 million local employees. There are two final payouts in March and June for firms seen as hardest-hit by Covid-19, such as those in aerospace.
While Singapore's economy is expected to rebound by 4 to 6 per cent this year, it is "unlikely to return to pre-Covid-19 levels in 2021", said MOM. "Recovery in the year ahead will also depend on the global situation and whether we can continue to keep the domestic Covid-19 situation under control. These uncertainties will have a direct impact on the labour market."
The JGI was introduced to help reduce these uncertainties, so that firms will bring forward their hiring plans. At the same time, said Mrs Teo, companies also transform and adapt to capture growth opportunities, with support from the Government.
Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises, said JGI is "important because businesses are still in a tough environment with uncertain economic conditions. Sometimes they hesitate (to hire), but with the scheme, they can be more assured. Having said that, they will not hire beyond that which is sustainable".
Associate Professor Lawrence Loh from the National University of Singapore Business School noted: "It will be a rational balancing act for every company - each will weigh the incentive for local hires with any possible savings from foreign recruitment."
Percentage of the new hires who were aged 40 and over.
Number of openings in the food service industry available as at end-December on the government jobs portal MyCareersFuture.sg.
Percentage of available jobs in the food sector which are PMET roles.
He added that time is also a critical factor as firms may urgently need to employ staff and will have to consider all available sources.
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