Higher wage subsidies for S’porean workers extended to more sectors

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More firms in such as construction, retail and aerospace will be eligible for tiers of under the latest $2.9 billion enhancement to the Jobs Support Scheme, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said yesterday.

The scheme, first announced in February, will be extended by one month to cover wages paid in August, he said in a speech on the fourth Covid-19 support package.

This means employers will receive wage subsidies for all local employees for 10 months instead of nine. This will cost the Government $23.5 billion in all.

Firms will receive the additional month of subsidies in the October payout – the last of four payouts.

The Jobs Support Scheme covers between 25 per cent and 75 per cent of the first $4,600 of gross monthly wages for all 1.9 million Singaporean and permanent resident employees.

These are employed by more than 140,000 enterprises, many of which have been hit hard by both demand and supply shocks due to Covid-19, said Mr Heng. “Businesses are trying hard to get back on their feet and reopen safely as they emerge from the circuit breaker. We are fully behind them, and will further strengthen our support for businesses on the 3Cs – cash flow, costs and credit,” he said.

Those that cannot resume operations immediately after the circuit breaker ends on June 1 will receive higher subsidies of 75 per cent of wages until August or when they are allowed to reopen, whichever comes earlier. These include retail outlets, gyms and fitness studios, and cinemas, he added.

The higher subsidy level of 75 per cent was originally provided to all employers of local workers for April and May, to tide businesses through the circuit breaker period.

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said the types of firms eligible for the different tiers of support under the Jobs Support Scheme will be reclassified to help those more severely impacted.

Originally, only firms in tourism and the aviation sector would get support/subsidies of 75 per cent of wages after the circuit breaker. Firms in the food services industry would receive 50 per cent of wages while other firms receive the base level of 25 per cent.

Now, firms in the aerospace sector – including those in maintenance, repair and operations – as well as money changers and regional ferry operators, among others, will also receive 75 per cent wage support. Cinema operators, certain retailers and marine and offshore firms are among those that will get 50 per cent support. Eligible firms will receive retrospective payouts by July to top up what they have received so far.

Firms in the built environment sector, which includes construction, will receive higher subsidies of 75 per cent for wages paid between June and August, as they are affected by the phased and gradual resumption of activities, he said.

Mr Heng thanked firms that have returned or donated their Jobs Support Scheme payouts as they have not been as badly affected, and urged others to use the subsidies to retain their staff, speed up adaptation and move towards a viable business model.

“Please make full use of the schemes available to train workers and upgrade your corporate capabilities. Time is running out, please act fast!” he said.

Most businesses are expected to reopen by July, and the support in this year’s Budgets would enable most sectors to recover in the coming months, said Mr Heng.

The Government will consider more help for some sectors, such as aviation and tourism, which will remain affected by restrictions on global travel for the foreseeable future. The help will depend on the situation and longer-term shape of these industries, and plans for the economy, he added.

Mr Heng said the pandemic comes at a time when enterprises are facing not only immediate challenges, but also structural changes that threaten their survival. Some workers will lose their jobs, and some of these jobs will not come back, while others will look different going into the future.

He stressed that the tripartite structure of cooperation between the Government, employers and unions that has served Singapore well will need to be reinforced.

“Each of us must do our part – businesses need to adapt and transform, and workers need to adapt and reskill. You have my assurance that the Government will provide strong support, to bring all parties together to navigate through these turbulent waters,” he said.

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