Oral Answer by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Acting Minister for Manpower, to Parliamentary Question on Steps To Assist Low-Wage Workers
Notice Paper No. 345 of 2013 For The Sitting On 21 Jan 2014 Question No. 1457
MP: Mr Christopher de Souza
To ask the Acting Minister for Manpower if he can provide an update on the steps that have been taken by the Government since 2010 to assist low-wage workers earning less than $1,500 per month, in particular the measures taken for such workers to (i) receive CPF benefits and cash under schemes such as the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS); (ii) be eligible for medical and dental coverage under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS); and (iii) be accorded better and fairer employment terms.
- Low-wage workers are a priority for the Government and we adopt a multi-faceted approach in helping them. Besides creating good jobs that will enable workers to provide for themselves and their families, we also seek to help workers earning lower wages improve their retirement adequacy and meet their short-term expenditure needs through Workfare.
- In 2012, we enhanced the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme to better meet the needs of lower-wage workers. The WIS income cap was raised from $1,500 in 2007 to $1,900 in 2013 to benefit about 30% of our citizen workforce. We increased the maximum WIS quantum by 25% to $3,500, and increased the cash proportion of WIS from less than 30% to 40% in 2013. The frequency of WIS payouts has also been increased to help workers better cope with current expenses.
- Mr Christopher de Souza asked about the steps taken to assist workers to receive WIS. The cash component is paid into his bank account or via cheque, and the CPF component is credited to his CPF accounts. These payouts are made automatically, but only if the employee receives CPF contributions from his employer. Hence, we are also taking steps to address poor employment practices that can potentially undermine our Workfare efforts. MOM and CPF Board launched the “WorkRight” programme in 2012 to step up compliance with the CPF Act and the Employment Act through education and enforcement.
- We are also doing more in sectors such as cleaning, which is prone to cheap sourcing. MOM has worked with the National Environment Agency (NEA) to introduce employment-related criteria in the Clean Mark accreditation scheme to encourage better employment standards. Similar criteria will also be incorporated into NEA’s mandatory licensing regime for the cleaning sector which will take effect this year. At the broader level for all workers, MOM has also been working with our tripartite partners to bring about the adoption of fair, responsible and merit-based employment through the work of the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices or TAFEP.
- Efforts to help low-wage workers and their families extend beyond what we do at MOM. The Government also provides assistance in housing, healthcare and education. As Mr Christopher de Souza has pointed out, one of the healthcare assistance schemes is the Community Health Assist Scheme or CHAS. CHAS allows Singaporeans from lower- and middle-income households the convenience of seeking subsidised care at private GP and dental clinics near their homes. MOH, the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC) and the Health Promotion Board (HPB) have been actively publicising CHAS through grassroots organisations and the unions. With the removal of the age floor for CHAS with effect from 1 January 2014, all eligible family members of lower- and middle- income households are now able to qualify for CHAS.
- We will continue to review and enhance the ways we extend assistance and support to low-wage workers as we strive towards a more inclusive society.