Around 780 ex-offenders employed under govt scheme to spur local hiring

Fifty-six per cent of ex-offenders were helped by Yellow Ribbon Singapore to find a job after being released from prison, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

SINGAPORE - Around 780 former offenders have been hired between September 2020 and February this year, with support from a government scheme introduced in August last year to encourage firms to hire more locals.

This number makes up 56 per cent of ex-offenders who were helped by Yellow Ribbon Singapore to find a job after being released from prison, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Tuesday (Aug 3).

He noted that the remaining 44 per cent were ineligible for the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) scheme because their employers did not meet the requirement of having increased their local headcount from August 2020.

The Government has set aside $1 billion to provide wage support under the JGI, with firms that hire locals aged 40 and above, people with disabilities or former offenders receiving co-payments of up to 50 per cent of the first $6,000 of their gross monthly income for up to 18 months.

In response to questions in Parliament from Mr Murali Pillai (Bukit Batok) on the JGI's impact on the employability of ex-offenders, Dr Tan noted that from September last year to February this year, Yellow Ribbon had helped around more than a third of ex-offenders released from prison, which 96 per cent of those assisted eventually finding a job.

Employers who have hired ex-offenders through agencies that help with their employability and re-integration - including Yellow Ribbon, the Industrial and Services Co-operative Society, or halfway houses engaged by the Singapore Prison Service - will automatically receive the JGI of up to $54,000 for these hires.

Dr Tan said that environmental services, food services, logistics, wholesale trade and construction were the top five hiring sectors, collectively accounting for almost eight in 10 of JGI-supported ex-offenders.

Yellow Ribbon also assigns a career coach for up to a year, to work closely with and support both the ex-offender and employer.

Mr Murali also asked how it could be ensured that ex-offenders would be treated fairly after wage support under the JGI ends in September this year.

Dr Tan said: "If the worker, whether an ex-offender or not, proves his value to the company, it serves and is in the best interest of the employer to keep him on its workforce even after the JGI support has ended.

"Otherwise, the employer would have wasted expense and months of effort training the new hire, and risk losing a skilled worker to competitors."

He added, however, that with business circumstances and manpower needs constantly changing, not all employers would be able to retain every single worker.

Workers who need help can approach Workforce Singapore for career matching services, and ex-offenders can reach out to Yellow Ribbon, said Dr Tan.

"I would like to give all workers the assurance that unfair treatment will be taken seriously," he said. "Any employee who experiences unfair treatment can approach the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices, or Tafep, which will investigate such complaints."

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