SINGAPORE - Making the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) permanent can help mature professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) transition into new jobs, said labour MP Patrick Tay (Pioneer).
This comes as the scheme, which supports local hiring through wage subsidies, will be extended by six months to September but with stepped-down support rates.
Mr Tay, who is assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), called for the JGI to be translated into "a permanent short-term salary support initiative to assist our mature PMEs".
"This is done by helping companies, who hire unemployed mature PMEs, in mitigating their costs and risks associated with hiring this group of PMEs, who may possess the relevant skills and experience needed," he added during the debate on the Budget statement on Tuesday (March 1).
"This will also allow companies to assess the mature PMEs' suitability for the job roles and continue to keep them in the companies' workforce," said Mr Tay.
He also noted that the current extension will motivate firms to hire older PMEs and ensure these workers get the opportunities they deserve.
The scheme, which was introduced in September 2020, has already been extended twice, with the latest qualifying window originally slated to close this month (March).
Meanwhile, there is a need to not only protect the confidentiality of whistle-blowers of discriminatory practices, but also prohibit retaliation against them, said Mr Tay.
Though he has met human resource professionals and PMEs who come across such practices, he said, "in most cases, they do not report such practices for fear of potential reprisals or consequences".
He called for legal protections to promote transparency and fairness, and for employers to set up formal grievance handling processes that are communicated clearly to their workers.
"It is beneficial for those who experienced workplace discrimination or harassment to come forward, so that problems can be resolved and positive norms established," he said.
Mr Tay noted that more can be done to penalise the small proportion of firms that adopt unfair practices.
He hopes the Tripartite Committee on Workplace Fairness, which has been set up to suggest ways to tackle workplace discrimination, will come up with recommendations that strengthen enforcement and require errant firms to take remedial action.
On the planned hikes in qualifying salaries for foreign Employment Pass (EP) and S Pass holders, Mr Tay said these revisions will go some way to level the playing field for locals - as it ties in with the rise in their median wages - but "such a system, by itself, is inadequate".
He stressed that the EP framework must be improved so that foreign professionals can complement local PMEs, while employers practise fair hiring and improve their workforce diversity.
Mr Tay recommended a points system which factors in sectoral input, whether the employer has been hiring local workers, and the diversity of nationalities within the companies.
Such a system will provide the flexibility to let employers who meet the requirements secure foreign talent to complement their local workforce, and restrict access for errant firms, he added.
Nominated MP Abdul Samad Abdul Wahab said the demand for highly skilled jobs that would attract PMEs is growing.
"Companies should not take advantage of the recovering economy to bring in foreign talent, but instead put in place a career development plan for the Singaporean workers to take on these jobs and grow their careers," he added.