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Oral Answer by Mrs Josephine Teo Minister for Manpower on the Labour Market and SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package



MP: Ms Ng Ling Ling

To ask the Minister for Manpower in the past six months (a) how many workers aged 50 years and above have become unemployed; (b) what is the average length of time for them to be employed again; and (c) whether such data can be reported by the Ministry to the public periodically.




MP: Ms He Ting Ru

To ask the Minister for Manpower how many Singaporeans have (i) been retrenched this year (ii) been placed on unpaid leave due to the COVID-19 situation and (iii) had their pay reduced by more than 50% since the start of the circuit breaker period.




MP: Ms He Ting Ru

To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) what is being done to ensure that companies do not misuse the SGUnited Traineeships Programme and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme to fulfil their manpower requirements; and (b) whether companies that have recently retrenched their workers are allowed to hire under the these traineeship programmes



Labour Market Statistics

1. To Ms Ng Ling Ling’s question, the Ministry of Manpower publishes the Labour Market Report on a quarterly basis and the Report on Labour Force in Singapore on an annual basis. The Advance Release for 2Q 2020 estimated that there were 90,500 unemployed residents in June 2020, compared to 73,900 in December 2019, a difference of 16,600 over six months. Of those unemployed, 1 in 3 were aged 50 and over and this proportion has been stable. In comparison, about one in four persons in our resident workforce is aged 50 and over. This is consistent with the longer time they have taken to return to the workforce. Based on latest available data on the duration of unemployment, the median period for residents aged 50 & over was 12 weeks. This duration had been broadly stable for a number of years. We can expect the duration to rise in times of economic downturns - as it is likely to for all age groups - although the extent remains to be seen.  

2. To Ms He Ting Ru’s question, preliminary figures from survey data indicate that 5,280 Singapore Citizens were retrenched in the first half of 2020. In our labour statistics compilation, being placed on unpaid leave is captured as “temporary layoffs”. In the first half of 2020, an estimated 11,000 Singapore Citizens were affected by temporary layoffs, as compared to 33,000 non-citizens.

a. Since the start of the Circuit Breaker on 6 April, employers with more than 10 employees are required to notify MOM within one week of implementing cost-saving measures – such as shorter work hours or no-pay leave – that result in more than 25% reduction in gross monthly salary for local employees or 25% reduction in basic monthly salary for foreign employees. 

b. Based on the notifications received between the start of the Circuit Breaker period and 20 August, salary reductions of more than 50% are a small minority. We are not able to provide the breakdown between Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents as the distinction was not made in the notification by employers. 

Take up of the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package

3. The Government continues to monitor the labour market closely and adjusts its measures to support workers and help businesses maintain or expand their local employment. The National Jobs Council is coordinating efforts to provide 100,000 jobs and skills opportunities for jobseekers under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. 

4. Ms Cheng Li Hui asked about the take-up of these programmes.  The Ministry of Manpower has started providing weekly updates on the jobs and skills situation, to highlight the opportunities available for jobseekers and how they can access them. By now, more than 95,000 opportunities have been made available. These include a) 65,000 job opportunities, b) close to 20,000 company-hosted traineeships, attachments or training places, and c) over 10,000 opportunities under the SGUnited Skills Programme. 

5. We have helped to place over 25,000 individuals into jobs, traineeships and training places. Of these, 24,000 across various age groups were placed into new jobs. About half are in the Public Sector, with another quarter in the Modern Services and Lifestyle sectors. The salary range of jobs can vary, depending on the sector and the specific job role that an individual takes up. 

6. Over 1,000 fresh graduate trainees have taken up traineeships under the SGUnited Traineeships programme. The majority of the traineeship positions filled are in growth sectors such as Information Communications Technology and Media, Professional Services, and Financial Services. As the process of shortlisting and selecting suitable trainees by host organisations takes time, we can expect to see more placements into traineeships and company attachments subsequently. Lastly, close to 700 trainees have enrolled in 40 courses under the SGUnited Skills Programme. 

7. We have expanded outreach to increase awareness of these opportunities. To reach out to fresh graduates on opportunities under the SGUnited Traineeships programme, WSG works closely with the Ministry of Education, the Institutes of Higher Learning, the National Trades Union Congress and People’s Association. To reach out to mid-career individuals on attachments under the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme, WSG organises SGUnited Jobs and Skills Fairs to allow them to apply for opportunities onsite. Twenty-four SGUnited Jobs & Skills Centres have been set up across all HDB towns. We also reach out to both groups through various digital media channels. 

8. From January to July 2020, 36,400 jobseekers received basic career advisory or job search assistance through WSG and NTUC-e2i’s career matching services. This is 30% more than the same period in 2019, despite Circuit Breaker measures.

Support for Trainees 

9. The traineeships and attachments do not automatically convert into a permanent job. However, we are hopeful that companies will find a good number of trainees a good fit and make them part of their permanent staff. This will depend largely on the fit of each trainee to the job, and the business situation and hiring needs of the host organisation when the traineeships are completed. Workforce Singapore’s experience with Attach-and-Train programmes so far has been that host organisations that are impressed with trainees will place them in full-time positions in the companies to make the most of the time and money they have invested in the attachment. The new Jobs Growth Incentive scheme will give greater support to businesses to expand and grow their local headcounts over the next six months. This will also help spur hiring of trainees. In designing the Jobs Growth Incentive, we made sure to double the support for more mature jobseekers. New local hires aged 40 and above will get twice as much wage subsidies. 

10. For cases where the traineeship does not result in a permanent job, the experience will equip the trainee with industry-relevant knowledge and skills, and help to burnish their credentials and value proposition to other employers. The Government will also continue to support them in their job search journey, through career matching services offered by WSG, NTUC’s Employability and Employment Institute and other partner organisations.

Abuse of SGUnited Traineeships and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programmes
11. Ms He Ting Ru asked about safeguards against misuse. The Singapore Business Federation (SBF), our programme partner for these programmes, scrutinises each application to ensure that host companies structure their traineeships and attachments appropriately with clear development plans, so that participants can have a meaningful experience. SBF also scrutinises the applications, to make sure that the companies are not using these programmes to hire workers for permanent jobs at low cost. 

12. Host organisations are required to declare in their applications if they had undertaken retrenchment exercises or adopted various cost-cutting measures. If there are grounds to believe that companies are replacing existing employees with trainees in similar roles, such applications will be rejected. Some host organisations have asked if they can pay more than the stipulated allowances for very attractive candidates.  They are advised to offer these candidates paid employment instead of traineeships or attachments, which will also enjoy significant support under the Jobs Growth Incentive. 

13. In addition to the rigorous screening process that I have described above, SBF also assists companies to review and improve their proposals, especially for applications that are incomplete or lacking in detail. These measures are necessary so that the traineeship or attachment experience is a positive and meaningful one. This is why it takes four to six weeks on average to approve applications, to ensure that trainees’ interests are safeguarded. SBF has stepped up resources in response to the strong interest in these programmes, to process these applications as quickly as possible.