MOM to help reskill 22,000 long-term unemployed, mostly in their 50s and 60s: Tan See Leng

Dr Tan See Leng called for those facing long-term unemployment to work with the ministry to reskill in the information and communications technology sector. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The long-term unemployment rate in Singapore is at about 0.9 per cent, or about 22,000 residents, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said in Parliament on Friday (Feb 18).

The annual rate in a "very good year" is about 0.7 per cent or 0.8 per cent, he added.

Dr Tan was responding to Workers' Party (WP) MP Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) on whether long-term unemployment in Singapore involved more higher-skilled or lower-skilled workers.

He noted that most of those who have difficulty obtaining jobs are typically in their 50s and 60s and have educational qualifications below a diploma.

Dr Tan said the ministry is looking at helping these workers acquire different skill sets and called for those facing long-term unemployment to work with the ministry to reskill in the information and communications technology sector.

Responding to WP MP Leon Perera (Aljunied GRC) on support for long-term unemployed workers, Dr Tan said: "To directly support local job seekers, the National Jobs Council has placed more than 174,000 job seekers into jobs and skills opportunities as at end-December 2021. This is under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills (SGUJS) Package.

"Jobs Growth Incentive was also introduced to encourage employers to expand local hiring amidst economic uncertainty."

Announced in May 2020 by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat as part of the fourth Budget, the SGUJS directly supports those affected by the Covid-19 economic slowdown.

Transportation and storage; administrative and support services; arts, entertainment and recreation; construction; accommodation and food services; and real estate services make up the top industries with the highest long-term unemployment in June last year, said Dr Tan, in response to Mr Perera.

These industries have been relatively more impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Dr Tan said, but he noted that long-term unemployment rates across industries fluctuate from year to year, so it does not make sense to focus on the top industries.

"Instead we have to help workers across the economy to stay relevant and jobs seekers to switch into new jobs," he said.

Dr Tan also addressed concerns raised by Mr Yip Hon Weng (Yio Chu Kang ) that the rise of hybrid working arrangements will adversely impact Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions.

He noted that computation of CPF obligations does not differ between traditional salaried employees and remote hybrid employees.

Said Dr Tan: "All employers are required to make mandatory CPF contributions, both employer and employee portion, based on the wages a Singaporean or Singapore permanent resident earns while working in Singapore.

"This includes overseas employers who have local employees working for them remotely in Singapore."

Dr Tan added that like other local employees, those working remotely in Singapore for overseas employers can still make voluntary CPF contributions up to $37,740 a year less any mandatory contributions received, to help them enjoy CPF interest rates of up to 6 per cent per annum and accumulate more for retirement and healthcare needs.

Mr Yip asked whether there are plans to periodically review and audit CPF obligations by employers, particularly those who may not declare employees working from home.

Dr Tan said CPF has multiple channels to monitor employers who make late payment of their CPF contributions, including a detection system for late payment and pro-active auditing of employers.

He said: "Employees and whistle-blowers can lodge reports to CPF Board about late payment, non-payment or underpayment of CPF contributions."

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