May Day

PM: What we have is better than unemployment insurance

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong arriving at the May Day Rally 2016 at Downtown East, on May 1, 2016. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday addressed calls for some form of unemployment insurance by saying Singapore has something better.

It has schemes to help workers find jobs that are paid for not by workers or employers, but by the Government, he said.

Noting recent calls for some form of insurance for those out of work, Mr Lee said at the May Day Rally that MPs might raise the subject when searching for a topic to speak on because it is an "evergreen" one.

"I tell them: Actually, we have something even better than unemployment insurance, because (for) unemployment insurance the worker has to pay out of his salary," he said. "And then when he gets unemployed, you are subsidising him, helping him to stay unemployed while he looks for a job."

Instead, in Singapore, the Government funds programmes to support workers who are making an effort to get back into a job and who upgrade their skills to make themselves more valuable.

"The scheme is not paid (for) by the workers or the employers, it's paid (for) by the Government. And the scheme is used not to help you stay unemployed, but to help you get employed," Mr Lee told some 1,000 unionists and guests.

Last Friday, labour chief Chan Chun Sing also rejected calls for unemployment insurance in his speech at the May Day dinner.

The secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress said that it is better to focus instead on helping workers remain employable and relevant to the job market.

These messages come after a number of MPs called on the Government to look into retrenchment insurance to tide workers over in the current economic difficulties, during the debate on the Government's Budget last month.

Economists weighed in on how such a system could be worked out for the Singapore context.

Singapore Democratic Party secretary-general Chee Soon Juan also repeated his call for retrenchment insurance yesterday.

Dr Chee said workers would pay a fee to be included and if retrenched, would get decreasing payouts for 11/2 years.

Joanna Seow

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 02, 2016, with the headline PM: What we have is better than unemployment insurance. Subscribe