SINGAPORE - To help self-employed real estate agents better manage rising healthcare costs, one of the three biggest estate agencies here, PropNex Realty, announced on Tuesday (March 13) a new healthcare benefits scheme for its agents.
The scheme will provide its 6,900 or so agents with subsidised rates at over 500 general practitioners, dentists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners islandwide, for a one-time fee of $19. They will also get free health screenings for conditions like hypertension and diabetes, among other benefits.
The move comes as efforts are underway to better support freelancers, who are growing in numbers.
About 223,500 residents were self-employed over the year ending June 2017, up from 200,100 in 2016, according to a Manpower Ministry survey released earlier this month.
Real estate agents make up the fourth-largest group among Singapore residents who do freelance work as their main job.
A tripartite workgroup last month released recommendations on how to better support freelancers, including providing more avenues for dispute resolution and offering an insurance product to provide an income if they are on prolonged medical leave. The Government has accepted the recommendations.
PropNex chief executive Ismail Gafoor said his company offers various support programmes, including an opt-in group insurance scheme and a spouse protection scheme for team leaders, which provides income for a spouse if a team leader dies, until the team leader would have reached the age of 60.
On the latest healthcare benefits scheme, he said: "Self-employed people should always be proactive in their health checks, as their health is paramount for them to be able to bring bread to the table. If they are sick they are not going to get income."
Other major real estate agencies have also put in place group insurance and income support schemes for agents.
ERA Realty Network started a group hospitalisation insurance scheme more than 20 years ago, said key executive officer Eugene Lim. He said the premium costs about 20 to 30 per cent less than similar products purchased by individuals.
The agency also provides free annual health screenings for its 6,200 agents, he said.
OrangeTee & Tie managing director Steven Tan said his agency offers group hospitalisation and dental care insurance, and corporate health screening rates to its 4,050 agents.
There is also an income assurance scheme, started about 15 years ago, where team leaders who are unable to work will continue to earn team management fees for five years. The fees can be paid to their family if they die, which has happened in two cases so far, said Mr Tan.