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Retrenched PMETs to get more help

With higher layoffs among white-collar workers expected as the economy continues to undergo restructuring, the Government will be expanding existing schemes to help this group of Singaporeans if they lose their jobs.

SINGAPORE — With higher layoffs among white-collar workers expected as the economy continues to undergo restructuring, the Government will be expanding existing schemes to help this group of Singaporeans if they lose their jobs. 

From next month, the Career Support Programme (CSP) will be extended to Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMETs) who are younger than 40 years old and  jobless for at least six months. Those aged 40 and above will also come under the scheme immediately once they are laid off.

Meanwhile, the Professional Conversion Programme will be rolled out to more sectors over the next two years.

These were announced by Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate on Friday (April 8).

The CSP, launched last October,  is targeted at workers who have been retrenched or released from their work contracts prematurely. Only PMETs who are at least 40 years old and jobless for six months are currently able to benefit from this scheme. 

Employers can also receive wage support of between 10 and 40 per cent of the worker’s monthly salary for up to a year.

In the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) labour report released last month, the number of layoffs last year  -- 15,580 workers -- was at its highest since the 2009 financial crisis, with PMETs making up up about 70 per cent of those laid off last year.

Addressing the House, Mr Lim said: “We are seeing among the workers made redundant, there are more mature workers, more PMETs and in fact, they also need more time to find jobs, especially the mature PMETs.”

As such, the CSP’s scope will be expanded from next month with tweaks to the age and unemployment-time limits. 

Unemployed PMETs below 40 years old will now be able to come under this scheme, if they have been jobless for at least six months. 

Unemployed PMETs aged 40 and above can come under this scheme the moment they have been made laid off.

The MOM will provide employers with salary support of 20 per cent of the worker’s monthly salary, capped at S$1,400 a month for the first six months.

In the subsequent six months, the MOM will provide wage support of 10 per cent of the monthly salary, capped at S$700 a month. To be eligible for the wage support, employers must also provide jobseekers with a mid-level job that pays at least S$4,000 a month and on-the-job training.

The existing scheme has placed over 90 PMETs in jobs, mostly with the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), since its launch.

With its expansion, the CSP is expected to benefit 1,700 Singaporeans each year. 

As for the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP), its expansion from next month to include more sectors will benefit 1,500 people each year.

Launched in 2007, the PCP aims to help PMET jobseekers by training them in new skills so that they can switch to another sector or take on different job scopes. 

It provides training and wage support of up to 70 per cent of the worker’s monthly salary, capped at S$2,000.

So far, 7,000 people have benefited from the PCP, which now covers 10 sectors ranging from early childhood to the creative industries. 

Under the expanded PCP, another 10 sectors, including retail and pharmaceuticals, will come aboard over the next two years.

Similarly, more job-matching between PMETs and SMEs will be done by expanding the P-Max programme which was launched last year, said Mr Lim. 

The MOM is aiming to increase the number of placements made through this programme from the current 1,100 to 1,400 each year by appointing more programme managers at more trade associations.

During Friday's debate, some Members of Parliament called for stronger safety nets for workers made redundant.

Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim, for instance, suggested the need for a redundancy insurance, adding that some workers might want to take the entrepreneur route after losing their jobs.

In his reponse Mr Lim reiterated that the priority now is to help workers get back into the workforce through available schemes.

However, he added that helping laid-off workers to become entrepreneurs is a possibility that he is willing to explore.

“We are unable to promise no paycut (or) guarantees of job offers”, Mr Lim told the House.

“But what we do promise is our best efforts to help with a variety of options (and) a diversity of opportunities.

“ We (also) need them (unemployed workers) to do their best to help themselves, be prepared to adapt to different jobs, if necessary in different sectors and even different pay so that they can grow again,” he added.

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