More than 1,600 people with disabilities hired under Jobs Growth Incentive scheme

Service staff wrapping burgers at The Social Kitchen's Jurong Bird Park branch on July 14, 2021. Ms Jessica Szeto (right), who has Down syndrome, was hired last November. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - More than 1,600 people with disabilities have been hired under the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) scheme as at February this year, including 40 per cent who are aged 40 and older.

About 60 per cent of these hires were not holding a job at the point when they were employed under the scheme, with more than half in this group having been out of work for more than six months.

The JGI scheme, which saw $1 billion set aside as wage support, was introduced in August last year to spur firms to hire more locals.

The Ministry of Manpower on Wednesday (July 14) said that food services, environmental services and wholesale trade were the top hiring sectors, collectively accounting for slightly more than 40 per cent of JGI-supported hires of people with disabilities.

From March 1 this year, the ministry said those hiring workers aged 40 and above, people with disabilities or former offenders can receive a co-payment of up to 50 per cent of the first $6,000 of the worker's gross monthly income for up to 18 months.

One employer that has benefited from the JGI scheme is The Social Kitchen, a social enterprise that hires individuals from disadvantaged communities. It has six outlets.

Ms Jessica Szeto, who has Down syndrome, was hired in November last year to work in the company's Jurong Bird Park branch as a service staff member. It is her first full-time job.

Her duties involve packing food products to be delivered to customers.

The 30-year-old said: "(The job) has been very good. I'm very happy to do packing and serving. I was nervous at the start, but I met a lot of friends on the job and they taught me."

Ms Szeto, who attended special education schools such as Rainbow Centre Margaret Drive School, will receive further training at The Social Kitchen to progress in her career.

Ms Avelyn Lee, co-founder and director at The Social Kitchen, said the team will be giving Ms Szeto time to build up her confidence before letting her try out new roles, including taking orders online and even eventually becoming a supervisor.

"Generally, persons with disabilities, single mums and matured workers, when they join, they are a bit nervous simply because of their level of confidence.

"But (Ms Szeto) has opened up a lot since she started work. For us, the challenge is how to shorten this runway for them and not compromise their confidence," said Ms Lee.

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