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Workfare Scheme Open to Odd-Job, Part-Time Workers

The Straits Times (30 January 2009) :  Workfare Scheme Open to Odd-Job, Part-Time Workers


The Straits Times (23 January 2009) : Low-wage Earners Welcome Any Help


Workfare Scheme Open to Odd-Job, Part-Time Workers
- The Straits Times, 29 January 2009

We refer to the article "Low-wage earners welcome any help" (The Straits Times, 23 January 2009) which reported that two interviewees could not qualify for the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) because one was an odd-job worker and the other a part-time worker. 

2.   This is incorrect. A worker who is doing odd-jobs or is working part-time can still receive the WIS, as long as he or she is a Singapore citizen, above 35 years old, work at least 3 months out of any 6-month period within the calendar year, earn less than $1,500 a month, and stay in a property of annual value not exceeding $10,000.

3.   Workers who receive CPF contributions from their employers will receive WIS automatically. Workers who do not receive such contributions or are self-employed, can also receive WIS if they register with CPF Board and make Medisave contributions themselves. They can do so either at any CPF Board Service Centre or SingPost branch office.

4.   Similarly, the WIS Special Payment, which is in cash, will be based on contributions made by the worker's employer or his own Medisave contributions. More details about the Special Payment will be announced later.

5.   We would like to encourage all workers to take advantage of Workfare. Workers may wish to contact CPF Board at 1800-222-8888 for more information.


Low-wage Earners Welcome Any Help
- The Straits Times, 23 January 2009

In tough times like these, any help that comes is welcome, several low-income earners said yesterday in response to measures for needy families announced in the Budget by Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam. But cold, hard cash would be more helpful, some added.

Among them is plumber and odd-job labourer Tan Beng Yeong, 47, who said he struggles to make ends meet on his monthly earnings of around $700. In difficult months when there is little or no work, he does not earn enough to put food on the table for his homemaker wife Nancy Nah, 41, and their two children - a daughter, 17, and son, 15.

Said Mr Tan in Mandarin: 'It's not that we're not grateful. It's good to have rebates and all, but it will be better for people like us to have money in hand. Right now, I don't even have enough money to celebrate Chinese New Year properly with my family.'

In the course of last year, he was getting help in the form of cash grants, supermarket vouchers and utility grants from the Chinese Development Assistance Council and the South West Community Development Council (CDC). This help ended late last year but he has sought an extension of assistance from the CDC. Meanwhile, he has been borrowing money from friends. He is in arrears over his utility bills to the tune of over $1,000 and said power and water supplies to his two-room rental flat in Clementi Avenue 5 were cut twice in recent months. But Mr Tan cheered up when told that the Government was doubling the goods and services tax (GST) offset credits.

He stands to receive around $1,000 in GST credits, three months' rental rebate amounting to $150, and three months' rebate in service and conservancy (S&C) charges worth nearly $90. These are on top of the $210 utility rebate he gets from the 2007 GST Offset Package. But he will miss out on more cash through the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme.

Yesterday, Mr Tharman said the Government will provide 50 per cent more in Workfare payouts this year for low-wage workers aged above 35 years old and earning up to $1,500. The eligibility criteria will also be relaxed, with more details to be announced soon. As an odd-job worker, Mr Tan does not now qualify. Workfare requires workers to be employed for at least six months in the calendar year, and to also contribute to the Central Provident Fund.

Another who misses out on Workfare is part-time air-conditioning technician Lim Joo Heng, 46. He earns about $800 a month and his wife, a part-time sales promoter, draws around $400 a month. News of the extra 50 per cent Workfare payout has piqued his interest in getting a full-time job. Till then, he welcomes help he gets in the form of transport vouchers. This is given by the Public Transport Council, which is getting an extra $10 million from the Budget. Mr Lim's family will get around $100 worth of S&C rebates and $1,000 worth of GST credits. He is delighted his son, 18, and daughter, 17, who are both in polytechnic, can get more help through the Education Ministry's financial assistance schemes, which are set to be enhanced.

Said Mr Lim: 'It's better than nothing. But we know we can't depend on the Government all the time. Also, there are many others worse off than us.'

Echoing his sentiment was Mr Jerry Koh, 46, who was retrenched last October from his $4,500-a-month job as a sales engineer. His family now relies on his civil servant-wife's $4,500 monthly salary to pay household bills. Mr Koh is attending a retraining programme arranged by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency and is aiming for a hotel job. The couple, who have a 15-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, live in a five-room Sembawang flat. Based on the family's profile, they will receive $800 worth of GST credits. While their drop from the upper-middle income category is painful, Mr Koh is grateful for any help. 'Whatever help we get is encouraging to people like myself who want to help ourselves.'