05 March 2012

An Inclusive Society, A Stronger Singapore – MOM’s efforts towards this end

05 March 2012

The Committee of Supply (COS) announcements are very important because this is where we put our money where our mouth is. All the ideas and intents are translated into policies and budgeted for. These policies would guide us for the year ahead and for a number of initiatives. It sets the foundation for the medium term if not long term. The MOM COS debate just ended today. We had a total of 42 cuts across all areas of MOM’s work and debated over 6 hours. The key areas we focused on were also reiterated at the Ministry’s Addendum last year:

•    Inclusive Growth
•    Economic Restructuring to ensure Sustainable Growth; and
•    Better Workplaces for All.

Inclusive Growth

(a) Older Workers

Singaporeans are living longer today compared to a generation ago. Today, 1 in 2 aged 65 and above will live beyond 85. So retirement adequacy is a major challenge we grapple with – how do we ensure older Singaporeans will have enough savings when they retire? The Government has always and will continue to help older Singaporeans build up their savings, while also encouraging employers to hire older workers – which then creates income for older workers.

Building up savings

To enhance the retirement adequacy of our older workers, we had announced that CPF contribution rates for older workers will be raised to help them build up their retirement savings. Further, from next year, the majority of CPF members turning 55 will be on CPF LIFE instead of the Minimum Sum Scheme, giving them comparable monthly income but for life. CPF LIFE has also been made simpler, in response to member feedback – with 2 plans from the current 4 plans for members to choose from. The Standard Plan, which will serve as the default plan, should meet the needs of most members.  It will provide a higher monthly payout, and a bequest. The current Basic Plan remains unchanged.  The Basic Plan will continue to cater to members who prefer a higher bequest and are willing to accept slightly lower monthly payouts. These two plans provide a meaningful choice for members.

Encouraging employment of older workers

Older workers are also a valuable asset that companies should tap on, especially in the tight labour market. We unveiled an enhanced Special Employment Credit (SEC) to encourage the employment of older workers. Those who hire older workers will benefit as the SEC benefit will be larger than the cost of the higher employer CPF contribution rates. The ADVANTAGE! Scheme will also be extended till March 2013 to give continued funding support for companies to make their workplace more age-friendly. All these will go a long way to encourage employers to hire golden employees and boost the workers’ savings at the same time.

(b) Low-Wage Workers

It is important that our lower-income workers also benefit from Singapore’s growth. Employees under the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) Scheme will now be paid 4 times a year, up from the current 2 times a year. We will also uplift our workers in the cleaning and security sectors with tighter accreditation and with Government procuring services only from accredited cleaning and security agencies. Further, MOM and CPFB are stepping up on education and enforcement efforts to help bring more low-wage workers under the CPF umbrella so they are able to benefit from the various Government benefits for low-wage workers such as WIS and CPF top-ups via the CPF system. The Government, in partnership and with support from the unions, has been doing more and will continue to do so, but we also need employers and workers themselves to come on-board in this collective effort. 

Economic Restructuring for Sustainable Growth

We are restructuring and upgrading our economy, so that workers can enjoy higher income and every Singaporean family can aspire to move up.” – DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Budget Speech 2012

Sustainability is important not just for our environment, but in the case of ensuring Singapore’s sustained economic growth. It is key to ensure a strong and resilient Singaporean core in the heart of our workforce across all levels. And it is the responsible thing to do.

Helping SMEs and PMEs

We’re enhancing funding support for SMEs who send their local employees for training and also for self-employed persons. We’re also making our employment assistance approach more customised and accessible – both online via a revamped WDA website, as well as at a new one-stop service point for PMEs called CaliberLink, which is located right in town. We will also be offering a helping hand for those considering a career switch through the expansion of the Place-and-Train Programmes (including Professional Conversion Programmes) into more growth sectors. 

Managing our Foreign Workforce

At the same time, an important feature of sustainable growth is also a complementary and sustainable foreign workforce. To be sustainable, we must skew our economy’s growth in the next decade towards productivity-driven rather and away from labour-driven growth. At the same time, we need to reduce our reliance on foreign workers. Hence, we are lowering the Dependency Ratio Ceilings (DRC) for Work Permit Holders and the S Pass Sub-DRC, but also giving companies with existing foreign workers time to adjust.  This is part of the broader effort to promote restructuring and moving up the value-chain, with the Government also providing substantial benefits and grants to support upgrading and productivity growth.

Better Workplaces for All

Finally, we are taking key steps in making Singapore a better workplace for everyone.

•    First, we will amend the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act (EFMA) to strengthen enforcement powers and options against employers who run foul of our work pass framework so we can better deal with them.  This is a significant move – as we will be increasing the penalties for serious contraventions, expanding our powers of investigation, and exploring speedier options against some regulatory breaches to complement criminal prosecution which takes longer. This will allow us to more effectively deter or prosecute offenders.

•    Second, a weekly rest day requirement will be applied to our Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) whose Work Permits are issued or renewed from 1 January 2013.  Improving their well-being will have a direct impact on the quality of care that our families and loved ones receive from our FDWs. It has also been shown that it will raise productivity at home.

•    Third, we know that falls from heights continue to be a leading cause of work-related fatalities, accounting for almost half of the cases last year.  MOM will review the need to introduce legal regulations on working at height to better protect our workers. SMEs, which hire the largest number of workers, will also receive targeted assistance through the Workplace Safety and Health Assist programme, to help SMEs adopt and implement workplace safety practices.

All in all, we must keep up our efforts towards an inclusive society and a stronger Singapore – one which help all Singaporeans provide for themselves and family, while preserving our strong work ethic and a progressive workplace we can be proud of. 

Minister of State Tan Chuan-Jin

Visit the MOM website for more information on our COS announcements. 
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