Beyond the tears, Minister Lim Swee Say announced some really exciting things

By March 8, 2017Current

This post is part of the series Budget 2017

Other posts in this series:

  1. Budget 2017: The National Budget Process
  2. Will we see a Budget which spends more than what we have?
  3. Three reasons to cheer the Early Childhood Development Centres Act

TL;DR – It was an emotional moment.

Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say got very emotional when speaking during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate in Parliament. He was talking about how a lady who had a brain tumour successfully made a career switch into the healthcare sector through the Adapt and Grow programme. She received help with her transport costs because she had some financial difficulties. And through her determination, she is now working as a clinic assistant.

As expected, there were people who said that it was all wayang, that Minister Lim was shedding crocodile tears. There were even people who said that this year’s Star Award for Best Actor should go to Minister Lim. Yes. It was really quite drama mama papa of Minister Lim to tear during his speech. And it, unfortunately, distracts from the very exciting announcements that Minister Lim made in his speech.

Here are the three which we found most exciting:

1. Protecting freelancers

The gig economy is set to grow in Singapore. As it does, the number of Singaporeans working as freelancers are likely to increase. MPs, both from the PAP and WP raised concerns about whether freelancers are adequately covered under existing labour laws and that they might not have sufficient savings for medical and retirement needs.

In addition to these concerns, a survey by MOM showed that freelancers were most concerned about the lack of income security arising from work injuries, attending training or skill upgrading courses, as well as the ability to get sufficient clients and collect timely payments.

Minister Lim said that the government is taking these concerns seriously. Minister Lim said:

“We will form a tripartite workgroup to study these issues and address the concerns of freelancers, and come up with workable solutions for the well-being of the freelancing workforce in our future economy”

Of the freelancers, the government is most concerned about the estimated 32,700 people who are doing primary freelancing not by choice. The government aims to reach out to this group through the Adapt and Grow scheme. Minister Lim said:

“Under the Adapt and Grow (scheme), we hope to reach out to as many of them as possible and help them to move into full-time employment”

Put together, MOM aims to maximise the upside of the gig economy while minimising its downsides. Minister Lim said:

“We will continue to monitor the development and together with our tripartite partners, we will find practical solutions to address the issues faced by freelancers.”

2. Better match unemployed with jobs

Minister Lim pointed out that “missed match” cases form the majority of job seekers. Minister Lim explained:

“They (i.e. the job seekers) are ready for the jobs, the jobs are suitable for them, but they are yet to find one each other.”

To minimise such missed matches, the government will make better use of technology to help more job seekers and employers find each other. The government will do this by making “major enhancements” to transform the National Jobs Bank into  a “one-stop, non-stop online marketplace”.

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This online marketplace of jobs will be linked with the Individual Learning Portfolio portal to be launched by SkillsFuture Singapore. Minister Lim said that this will allow Singaporeans seamless access between the two portals – from skills to jobs, and from jobs to skills. These enhancements are expected to be progressively rolled out this year.

In addition, to better help PMETs who are made redundant, and those unemployed for three months or more get back to work, the Government will partner two private-sector employment agencies. These two agencies have been working with Government agencies in the UK and Australia. They were chosen because they focus on active, rather than passive job seekers.

3. More support for PMETs

Beyond “missed matches”, PMETs also face job, skill and wage mismatches. To better support PMETs to address these mismatches, the government will enhance its Adapt and Grow initiative.

To address the jobs mismatches, 36 Professional Conversion Programmes (PCP) were launched in 2016 to help more than 1,000 PMETs switch careers and take on jobs in sectors with good growth. But Minister Lim noted the concerns of some MPs that many of the jobs under the programme were entry-level positions.

For instance, MP for West Coast GRC Patrick Tay, who is also a Labour MP, found it “unsatisfactory” that mature workers with“decades of work experience and skill” come in at an entry level under the programme. He said:

“There is strong inertia from many … to explore new industries due to the high opportunity cost”

To address this, Minister Lim announced that the government will raise the salary support caps of the PCP from S$2,000 to S$4,000. With this change mid-level jobs with a salary of up to S$5,700 could be supported.

via Ministry of Manpower

For mature PMETs, the support is even stronger. PMETs who are aged  40 and above – or long-term unemployed (six months or more) will get more support, up from S$4,000 to S$6,000. At 90 %wage support, the government can now support mid-level jobs up to S$6,700 of salary. This will encourage employers to offer more such PCP openings at mid-level.

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New Attach and Train scheme

To better address the skills mismatches, Minister Lim provided more details of a new Attach and Train initiative. This initiative will be introduced in sectors with promising growth. Participants will be provided with a training allowance of between half and 70% of the prevailing salaries for jobs they are training for, capped at S$4,000 a month.

This initiative is timely now because PMETs now face “a new bottleneck” during this period of economic transition where the pace of hiring is slower. In fact, some companies aren’t hiring any more due to the economic uncertainty. If we wait for employers to begin hiring before conversion training begins, then we would be wasting precious time.

While employers are not required to employ participants once training is over, trainees would be attached to specific companies. This serves two purposes. First, this would reduce the risk of participants not getting placed in a job after the training. Second, it would allow employees to familiarise themselves with their new jobs and workplace.

Enhanced Career Support Programme (CSP)

Lastly, to address the wage mismatch, the Career Support Programme (CSP) will be enhanced. This will help three groups of PMETs who have been unemployed for a longer duration. The government will provided higher wage support to employers who hire unemployed mature PMETs who have been actively searching for jobs for a year or more. The period of support will also be increased from the current 12 months to 18 months. In total, employers who hire this group of job seekers could get wage support of up  S$42,000 in total.

The government will enhance support for PMETs aged 40 to 49 who have either been made redundant or unemployed for six months. For this group, the government will double the wage support. This means that employers who employ this group could get up to S$25,200 in wage support.

PMETs who are younger than 40 will also get wage support. Employers who hire PMETs under the age of 40 and have been unemployed for six months or more will get wage support of up to $12,600 over 12 months.

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Better jobs, brighter future

These moves aim to help as many Singaporeans as possible to get good quality jobs so that they won’t need to depend on social transfers. If this can be done, then there will be more for those who really need the social transfers. If that can be done, then we, as a collective, can have a brighter future.

Meanwhile, you can download a copy of the MOM handout that summarises the different ways it is helping the working people in Singapore.

Or, watch Minister Lim’s speech,


An initiative announced by Minister Heng Swee Keat during Budget 2016 to help Singaporeans affected by the economic slowdown and restructuring. This initiative is for both PMETs and also Rank and File (RnF) workers. This initiative is meant to help Singaporeans adapt to changing demands and growing their skills. More here.

Professional Conversion Programme (PCP)
Part of the Adapt and Grow initiative, PCPs help Singaporean workers adapt to changing job demands and grow their careers. PCPs are career conversion programmes targeted at PMETs to undergo skills conversion and move into new occupations or sectors that have good prospects and opportunities for progression. More here.

  • Place-and-Train

PMET is hired by a participating employer before undergoing training to take on new job role.

  • Attach-and-Train

PMET is provided with training and work attachments, in advance of job placement, through industry partners in growth sectors with good future job opportunities.

Career Support Programme (CSP)
The pilot programme was launched in October 2015 to encourage employers to hire mature (i.e. 40 years and above) Singaporean PMETs who are made redundant and/or unemployed for six months or more can gain access to mid-level job opportunities. CSP is part of the Adapt and Grow initiative which helps Singaporean workers adapt to changing job demands and grow their careers. More here.

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Joey Wee

Author Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!

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