COVID-19 SPECIAL

Coronavirus: Protecting Singaporeans' livelihoods MOM's top priority, says Josephine Teo

Fresh graduates facing a job market weakened by Covid-19 will be helped. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Fresh graduates facing a job market weakened by Covid-19 will be helped, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said.

Mrs Teo told The Sunday Times that the Government recognises the worries of recent graduates and graduating cohorts and that "this is a tough time to enter the job market".

This is why it will be rolling out the SGUnited Traineeships Programme next month to help recent and new graduates gain valuable work experience and develop professionally while receiving a stipend, she said.

The programme, which was announced as part of the Resilience Budget in March, will provide 8,000 paid traineeship positions for up to 12 months to fresh Institute of Technical Education, polytechnic and university graduates.

The Government, which has set aside $100 million for the scheme, will fund 80 per cent of the training allowance and host companies will cover the remainder. Protecting Singaporeans' livelihoods remains the Manpower Ministry's (MOM) top priority, stressed Mrs Teo.

Employment here fell by 19,900 in the first quarter of this year, according to data released by MOM on Wednesday. The ministry said labour market conditions are likely to worsen in the coming quarter.

"Even as we close workplaces temporarily, we want to ensure that workers can still put food on the table and meet their financial obligations," Mrs Teo said.

To that effect, the Jobs Support Scheme was enhanced in this year's Budget to help 1.9 million local employees, she said, with more than $7 billion disbursed since last month.

Asked about the sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in foreign worker dorms in recent weeks, Mrs Teo said the Government operates on the basis of medical evidence and that steps had been taken since late January to minimise transmission risks among foreign workers.

These included outreach to dorm operators to be more vigilant and producing materials in the workers' native languages to encourage them to take steps to protect themselves.

Subsequent measures included the closure of non-essential facilities such as TV rooms, staggered meal times and recreational hours, and increased deployment of enforcement officers at popular hangout spots on the weekends to discourage large gatherings.

Mrs Teo said that until mid-March, there was no evidence of widespread transmission among the migrant worker population, nor were there any dorm clusters.

"Keep in mind too the medical consensus then, that asymptomatic transmission was unlikely," she said.

"There will be a time to look back properly and follow up on the lessons learnt. But now, our focus must be to look after the workers and make sure they stay healthy."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 03, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Protecting Singaporeans' livelihoods MOM's top priority, says Josephine Teo. Subscribe