Parliamentary panel calls for review of job help schemes

Jobseekers at the Adapt and Grow Virtual Career Fair in Jurong.
Jobseekers at the Adapt and Grow Virtual Career Fair in Jurong. PHOTO: ST FILE

A panel of MPs has asked the Government to review the efficacy of the various programmes rolled out to help Singapore workers find new jobs.

While the MPs acknowledge the complexity of measuring the success of such schemes, they feel the findings from a review could be used to design future programmes.

This is one of the recommendations in a report released yesterday by the parliamentary Estimates Committee, which examines the Government's Budget and suggests improvements.

One of the schemes is the Adapt and Grow initiative, which helps match jobseekers to suitable jobs and equip them with new skills.

The committee asked the Ministry of Finance (MOF) why some workers did not manage to find a job through the initiative, and if there was any follow-up on those cases.

MOF said Workforce Singapore and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) would continue to help registered jobseekers until they found a job, declined further assistance, or became uncontactable.

The ministry told the panel that jobseekers, on their part, must be prepared to learn new skills to meet the requirements of their preferred jobs, while employers should give opportunities to jobseekers who might not have the full set of skills and experience but are prepared to learn.

The committee also urged the Government to find ways to let more Singaporeans know about the available schemes.

Separately, it asked MOF how initiatives recommended by the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) are being monitored. The recommendations include industry-specific road maps to transform sectors such as retail and logistics.

In all, $4.5 billion has been set aside for the Industry Transformation Programme, and 14 of 23 Industry Transformation Maps (ITMs) have been launched as of Nov 15.

MOF said the CFE initiatives are subject to monitoring systems like other government programmes.

Said committee chair Foo Mee Har: "With the significant investment of $4.5 billion, the committee expressed the need for robust KPIs, monitoring mechanisms, transparency and accountability of the various initiatives under CFE, including ITMs."

The committee urged the Government to stay agile in adapting and updating regulations, to promote innovation and the adoption of new technology.

"It is critical that education and skills training are integral pillars of every ITM," said Ms Foo.

She also called for more effort to be made to provide Singaporeans and local firms with knowledge of industry plans and schemes available, to facilitate participation.

The panel asked MOF about the effectiveness of productivity schemes in helping businesses, and abuses of the Productivity and Innovation Credit (PIC) Scheme.

MOF said the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore has audited 98,000 of 313,000 PIC claims made from 2011 to last year.

Of these 98,000 claims, 64 per cent, or 63,000, were rejected upfront. About 29,400 were bona fide, but 3,300 required clawbacks. The remaining 2,300 cases are still being audited.

The eight-member committee comprises Ms Foo, six other People's Action Party MPs, and Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2017, with the headline 'Parliamentary panel calls for review of job help schemes'. Print Edition | Subscribe