Singapore's Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat announced today that the government would be extending its jobs support scheme subsidizing the wages of local workers for another seven months. The scheme, originally set to end in August, has so far involved the disbursement of over S$16 billion (US$11.7 billion) in payouts benefiting some 2 million workers across 150,000 firms—a very large proportion of the resident workforce. But with unemployment already having hit record quarterly highs, and projected to continue rising for the rest of the year, the government is extending the scheme to March 2021, albeit at lower levels.
"We cannot sustain the JSS at current levels," Heng warned in his televised statement. "It draws heavily on our reserves and risks trapping our workers in unviable businesses."
Hence, he said, the support will be concentrated on the harder-hit sectors such as aviation and tourism, which will continue to receive a 50 percent wage subsidy for the full seven-month extension. The built environment sector, which suffered from extended closures of project sites, will receive a 50 percent subsidy for another two months, which will then be reduced to 30 percent in line with the slow resumption of construction activities. Companies in sectors which were also severely impacted but are now recovering, such as retail and F&B, will receive 30 percent subsidies for seven months. All other industries will receive a 10 percent subsidy until December 2020.
In addition, the government is launching initiatives to create more new jobs, in particular for older workers who are at higher risk of retrenchment, and to support firms in increasing their headcount of local workers. Under one such initiative, the government is offering a subsidy of up to 25 percent of salaries of all new local hires for one year, with the co-payment rising to 50 percent for workers aged 40 and above.