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Govt studying ways to continue supporting self-employed persons beyond 2020, but needs to 'taper towards normalcy’

SINGAPORE — The Government is studying ways to continue supporting self-employed persons beyond this year, and will give an update before the year ends.

Govt studying ways to continue supporting self-employed persons beyond 2020, but needs to 'taper towards normalcy’
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  • Payouts under the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs) were designed to cover affected individuals till end-December
  • However, additional measures ‘will need to taper towards normalcy’, DPM Heng Swee Keat said
  • Manpower Ministry will announce more details

SINGAPORE — The Government is studying ways to continue supporting self-employed persons beyond this year, and will give an update before the year ends.

This group of individuals was among those which Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said the Government was watching out for, as he wrapped up the parliamentary debate on the latest supplementary budget on Thursday (Oct 15).

The self-employed group, which includes freelancers, taxi drivers, private hire car drivers and real estate agents, are currently supported by the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs), which provides affected individuals with three quarterly cash payouts of S$3,000 each.

By the end of the month, over 195,000 individuals would have received all three payouts, amounting to S$9,000.

Pointing out that the three payouts were “sized to cover affected self-employed persons till end-December 2020”, Mr Heng said the Government will look at how to continue giving support to this group. “But like other support schemes, we will need to taper towards normalcy,” he added.

Apart from the self-employed group, Mr Heng also singled out mid-career professionals and lower-wage workers, which were highlighted by various Members of Parliament (MP) as facing a higher risk of income loss or may face difficulties finding a job during the Covid-19 crisis.

Mr Heng announced that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) will take up a suggestion by Bukit Batok MP Murali Pillai to provide a higher wage support for ex-offenders under the Jobs Growth Incentive.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Murali said that supporting ex-offenders is in line with the objective of the support schemes to help vulnerable groups gain access to opportunities and stay in good jobs.

Mr Heng said MOM will announce more details in due course.

The Jobs Growth Incentive provides wage support to eligible firms for all new local hires at all salary levels. It currently grants higher support for older workers and those with disabilities.

SUPPORTING LOWER-WAGE WORKERS

As for supporting lower-wage workers, Mr Heng said he agrees with the need to extend holistic support to uplift this group, many of whom are in frontline service jobs that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and safe management measures.

Nevertheless, Mr Heng said he will wait for the recommendations of a workgroup — comprising the Government, the labour movement and employers — which is being formed to study how to expand the progressive wage model to more sectors and push for greater productivity growth.

Mr Heng stressed that the progressive wage model and the Workfare Income Supplement scheme “must be seen as an integrated package”.

He cited the example of a 65-year-old cleaner whom he referred to as “Auntie Geok”.

Currently, she takes home at least S$1,800 a month, with S$1,500 provided under the progressive wage model and S$333 in Workfare payments.

She has also received a one-off Workfare special payment of S$3,000 this year to help her tide through the Covid-19 period.

Outside of these at-risk and vulnerable workers, Mr Heng acknowledged that there will be “exceptions along the margins” and said flexibility will be exercised when considering the appeals of individuals with extenuating circumstances.

“Let me reassure Members that we remain determined to support our firms and workers through this period… We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and provide additional support where necessary,” he said.

 

Related topics

SIRS self-employed Support Grant Covid-19 Heng Swee Keat

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