SINGAPORE - Two support schemes aimed at promoting local hiring amid the pandemic will be extended, but will focus on those who remain vulnerable despite improving economic conditions, such as those aged 40 and above.
The Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) wage support scheme will be extended by another six months to this September, but wage support for workers younger than 40 will be phased out.
The Government will concentrate its resources under the JGI on helping older workers, persons with disabilities and former offenders, said Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon during his ministry's Budget debate on Friday (March 4).
He was responding to questions from several MPs, including the Workers' Party's Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC) and Ms Rachel Ong (West Coast GRC).
Eligible employers will only receive incentives for new local hires who are mature workers aged 40 and above who have not worked for at least six months, persons with disabilities or former offenders under the fourth phase of the scheme from April.
With the focus on mature workers, defined as those aged 40 and above, the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package will also see some changes.
The SGUnited Traineeships scheme, designed to help fresh graduates land jobs amid the weakened demand for skilled workers at the height of the pandemic, will be discontinued after it expires later in March, said Dr Koh.
Training allowances for mature job seekers in the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways attachment programme will remain unchanged at up to $3,800 per month, but government funding will be reduced from 90 per cent to 70 per cent, he added, in response to a question from Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Bukit Panjang).
The attachment programme is a separate component from the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways company training programme, which will expire on March 31 and be replaced with the SkillsFuture Career Transition Programme, as announced by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong on Feb 18.
Dr Koh said: "The SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package and the JGI were introduced as extraordinary, time-bound measures to preserve human capital and expand local hiring amidst the Covid-19 pandemic."
He added that the National Jobs Council's efforts saw more than 174,000 local job seekers placed into jobs and skills opportunities as at the end of December last year.
Dr Koh noted that about half of the nearly 509,000 local hires supported through the JGI from September 2020 to August 2021 were mature workers.
But some mature job seekers continue to face difficulties in finding permanent jobs, he said.
The two schemes will continue to help vulnerable workers who need additional support in the hiring process, mature workers who need help transiting to new job roles, and job seekers requiring career-matching services.
However, for the JGI, the maximum total incentive for each mature worker, person with disabilities or former offender who is hired will be reduced by 40 per cent.
For the first six months after hiring, employers will receive 40 per cent of the first $6,000 in gross monthly wages paid to these workers, then 20 per cent in the subsequent six months.
This translates to a maximum total incentive of $21,600 per hire, down from $36,000 for eligible firms that hired such workers between last October and this March.
For eligible firms to qualify for the incentive during this six-month extension, there must be an increase in overall local workforce size of the firm.
There must also be an increase in local workforce size earning at least $1,400 a month, compared with March this year.
Dr Koh said the JGI will continue to work in concert with other existing structural programmes, such as the Enabling Employment Credit, to support employment of persons with disabilities.
On the decision to end the SGUnited Traineeships, he said: "With the economy recovering, fewer graduates are participating in the scheme. Current trainees will be supported to the end of their traineeships."
Dr Koh also announced that SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres in all 24 HDB towns, manned by career ambassadors, will be retained, adding that job kiosks and phone advisory services will be rolled out.
Three employment agencies have also been appointed by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and Workforce Singapore under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Placement Partners initiative.
Adecco Personnel was reappointed while two new employment agencies, Charterhouse and Good Job Creations (Singapore), were added to the roster.
MOM said in a separate statement: "The selection and the reappointment of the new... placement partners was done through an open tender.
"The appointed employment agencies have demonstrated the ability to hire fairly and have good track records of placing local workers."
Launched in May 2020, the SGUnited Jobs and Skills package is a slew of measures meant to expand job, traineeship and skills training opportunities to support individuals affected by the economic impact of Covid-19.