More help is on the way for workers who get laid off or struggle to carve out new careers for themselves in an uncertain economy.
Professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs), for example, will be able to join companies on training attachments without having to be on their payroll. The Government will chip in with a training allowance of up to $4,000 a month for them.
Rank-and-file workers will receive allowances to try out new jobs for up to three months before they decide if these are suitable for them.
The Government has also made special efforts to help the vulnerable segment of PMETs aged 40 and above. There will be higher salary subsidies for employers who hire people from this group or those who have been unemployed for one year or more.
These were among a series of measures to help workers announced yesterday by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say when Parliament debated his ministry's budget.
The biggest rise in subsidy was for the Professional Conversion Programme that helps PMETs switch sectors and jobs. The Government will continue to subsidise 70 per cent of a worker's salary under this scheme, but has doubled the cap from $2,000 to $4,000 a month. This will encourage employers to hire PMETs seeking to switch careers at higher salaries.
In another incentive to hire PMETs aged 40 and above who have been unemployed for more than a year, employers will be offered higher wage subsidies under the Career Support Programme for 18 months, up from 12 months.
To make it easier for smaller firms to join this programme, the minimum salary of eligible workers will be lowered from $4,000 to $3,600 per month for them.
In an unprecedented move, the Government will engage two foreign employment agencies - which have worked with governments in Britain and Australia - to help PMETs find jobs. "They were selected because of their business focus on active job seekers - these are the workers who are actively looking for jobs - rather than passive job seekers where the jobs were looking for the workers," Mr Lim said.
The workers must take responsibility for their careers, too, instead of having a sense of entitlement. "We can only help those who want to help themselves," said Mr Lim.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has formed a task force to study how freelancers can be given more protection.
Mr Lim also hit out at firms that continue to prefer foreigners over Singaporeans. The number of companies on MOM's watch list has swelled to 250 from 100 a year ago. "About 50 of them have not been receptive or cooperative," he said. These companies will not be allowed to hire any more foreigners until they improve, he said.
Besides helping workers with jobs, Mr Lim announced that the Central Provident Fund Board is reviewing its investment schemes so that Singaporeans can save enough for retirement. In Parliament yesterday, Ministers of State Teo Ser Luck and Sam Tan also spelt out the ministry's plans to do more to protect foreign workers and improve the lot of low-wage workers.
The ministry's budget of $1.73 billion for this year was approved by the House after a 4 1/2-hour debate - the longest period allocated among all ministries. MOM also had to field the most questions from MPs in the Budget debate, reflecting rising worries over jobs.
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