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Speech by Senior Minister of State for Manpower Dr Koh Poh Koon at Committee of Supply 2024

Senior Minister of State for Manpower Dr Koh Poh Koon


  1. Preamble

    1.     Mr Chairman, I will now speak more about MOM’s measures to uplift Singaporeans and workers who may be more vulnerable.

    1. This includes our efforts to boost retirement adequacy of our seniors and improve protections for our workers.
    2. I will also cover our ongoing efforts to support the well-being of our migrant workers.
  2. Boosting Retirement Adequacy for Seniors

    2.     To boost the retirement adequacy of our seniors, the Government will introduce the Majulah Package to provide more support for our “Young Seniors”, as well as seniors in the Pioneer and Merdeka generations. These generations have generally earned less over their lifetime and had a shorter runway to benefit from improvements to our CPF system.

    3.     We want to assure Singaporeans that as long as one works and contributes consistently to CPF, you will be able to meet your retirement needs through CPF payouts.

    4.     But what about those who are not able to work and contribute consistently to their CPF accounts?

    1. Some may accumulate less CPF savings due to low wages during their working years.
    2. Others may not work consistently due to caregiving responsibilities or disabilities.

    5.     As Mr Desmond Choo, Mr Yip Hon Weng and other MPs at the Budget Debate have rightly pointed out, we will also need to boost the retirement adequacy of these groups.

    1. Families, employers and the community play a key role in supporting our seniors.
    2. This is an important part of our social compact, and the Government will continue to encourage and support this.

    6.     The Government will enhance our support in the following ways:

    1. First, to allow senior workers to accumulate more in their CPF accounts, we will continue with the planned increase in senior workers’ CPF contribution rates.
    2. Second, we will continue to encourage family, employers and the community, to support our seniors with lower retirement savings by enhancing the Matched Retirement Savings Scheme.
    3. Third, we will also enhance the Silver Support Scheme for seniors who had low incomes during their working years and have less family support.

    Increase in Senior Workers’ CPF contribution rates

    7.     As DPM Wong announced at Budget, we are committed to raising the CPF contribution rates for senior workers.

    8.     We have implemented the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers’ recommendation to increase the CPF contribution rates for senior workers since 2022 and will continue to do so in 2025.

    9.     The Government will continue to support employers with the CPF Transition Offset for the first year of implementation of this increase.

    1. I want to thank also our Tripartite Partners for their continued support.
    2. These recommendations are necessary so that our senior workers can enter retirement with more confidence.

    Matched Retirement Savings Scheme

    10.   Even with the increase in senior workers’ CPF contribution rates, some seniors may still face challenges in accumulating their CPF savings for retirement. We want to supplement efforts by families, employers and the community to help these seniors to save more.

    11.   In 2021, the Government introduced the Matched Retirement Savings Scheme, or MRSS, as a pilot. Under the MRSS,

    1. the Government provides a dollar-for-dollar matching grant on cash top-ups made to the Retirement Account of eligible senior Singapore citizens aged between 55 and 70 with lower retirement savings.
    2. The matching grant is capped at $600 per year.
    3. Anyone can make these top-ups – individuals themselves, family members, employers or the community.
    4. In the first three years, about 172,000 Singaporeans have benefitted from the scheme.
    5. The Government has provided matching grants of about $200 million thus far.

    12. The positive response to MRSS showed that financially savvy members have chosen to make top-ups to loved ones’ CPF accounts as a way of growing their retirement savings.

    13.   Thus, as DPM Wong announced in his Budget speech, we will continue the scheme beyond the pilot and enhance the scheme in two ways from 2025 onwards.

    1. First, MRSS will be extended beyond the current age cap of 70 years old.
      1. I’m glad that Ms Hazel Poa agrees with this move. The number of Singaporeans eligible for the enhanced MRSS will thus double to about 800,000 per year.
    2. Second, Mr Desmond Choo will be glad to hear that the maximum matching grant quantum will be increased from $600 to $2,000 per year.
      1. A $20,000 cap will apply over an eligible member’s lifetime.
      2. An eligible senior who receives annual cash top-ups of $2,000 for 10 years can see his retirement savings increase by about $48,000, which translates to about a $260 increase in his lifelong monthly CPF payouts.

    14.   As our seniors enter their golden years, many of us want to better support them in old age. In fact, many of us regularly give them cash allowances to cover their daily expenses. I urge more Singaporeans to consider topping up your parents’ CPF too. This can be done in regular, small amounts.

    15.   Take for example, 35-year-old Ms Tay has been giving her parents monthly cash allowance since she started working.

    1. On top of that, Ms Tay has a GIRO arrangement with CPF Board since 2018 to make monthly cash top-ups into her parents’ Retirement Account.
    2. Her mother is also eligible for MRSS. So, when MRSS was introduced in 2021, her mother benefited from the dollar-for-dollar matching of her GIRO top-ups.
    3. Ms Tay said that the MRSS is a good initiative to get Singaporeans to top up their parents’ Retirement Account and earn the risk-free CPF interest rates.
    4. With the upcoming enhancements to MRSS, to increase the annual matching grant quantum, Ms Tay intends to also increase her cash top-ups so that she can help to increase her parents’ monthly retirement payouts.
    5. For those who choose to follow in Ms Tay’s footsteps, the Government will augment your efforts by providing the MRSS matching grant to eligible seniors.

    16.   The community can also use the MRSS to support those who need more help.

    17.   A good example is Fei Yue Community Services.

    1. In 2021 and 2022, they identified seniors living alone in rental flats in their community and worked with members of the public to raise over $300,000.
    2. The donations were credited as cash top-ups into the Retirement Accounts of over 500 senior beneficiaries.

    18.   Another community partner of MRSS is Tsao Foundation.

    1. Since 2021, Tsao Foundation has been encouraging seniors to save more for their retirement.
    2. Tsao Foundation provided additional cash top-ups so that the seniors under their programme receive the maximum annual matching grant from the Government when they top-up their Retirement Account.
    3. Tsao Foundation intends to further extend its campaign so that more seniors can benefit from the MRSS.

    Silver Support Scheme

    19.  In addition to the increase in senior workers’ contribution rates and MRSS enhancements, DPM and Minister have shared that the Government will be enhancing the Silver Support Scheme.

    1. The increase in Silver Support quarterly payments by 20% to keep pace with inflation should address Mr Yip Hon Weng’s concerns.
    2. We will continue to review the Silver Support Scheme regularly to target support at seniors who need it the most while ensuring the scheme remains fiscally sustainable.

    20.   All in all, the enhancements to the CPF system enable a whole-of-society effort to support the retirement adequacy of our seniors. Individuals, employers, family members and the community –  all of us can do our part to fortify our social compact and build a community that is kind and cares for one another. This is the essence of the Forward Singapore Exercise led by DPM Lawrence Wong.

    Mandarin Speech

    21.   Mr Chairman, allow me now to say a few words in Mandarin.

    22. 我们通过与国人的对话了解到,许多接近退休年龄的国人,都十分关心退休生活的保障。

    23.  政府推出了《共同前进配套》及其它加强退休保障的新措施,以照顾年长国人的基本退休需求。我们会与家庭、社区群体和雇主携手合作,为弱势的年长国人提供更多的援助。

    1. 政府将加《退休户头配对填补计划》。从2025年起,符合条件年国人的退休户头每年行配限,将高至2000元,终身顶限为两万元。
      1. 任何人都能国人填退休户头,这包括公金会本身、 家属、 雇主甚至是社区群体。
      2. 我鼓励子女定期填父母的公户头
      3. 政府也会提供一元一元的填,帮助增加他的退休存款。
      4. 符合条件的年国人如果每年获得2000元的现金填,他们的退休储蓄在十年内将增加约48000元。
      5. 这样一来,他终身可领取的公积金每月入息将增加约260元。
    2. 政府也会通过《乐龄补贴计划》,帮助公积金存款不足和较少家庭支援的年长国人。
      1. 2025年起,补贴金额将增加两成,以应对通货膨胀。
      2. 符合条件者的家庭人均月入顶限也将提高,让约29万年长国人从中受惠。
      3. 为此,政府将在2025年拨出额外的2.6亿元,全年总开支将达8.6亿元。

    24.   政府将致力帮助年长国人拥有退休保障,让他们能安享晚年。

    1. 要达到这个目标,我们也需要整个社会的齐心协力。
    2. 借此,我鼓励家庭 雇主和社区群体一起向身边需要帮助的人伸出援手,让年长国人能老有所依晚景如春

  3. Improving Protections for Workers

    25.   Now let me move on to the issue of employment protections for our workers.

    Work Injury Compensation for Freelancers

    26.   Ms Jean See asked how freelancers can be protected for workplace safety and health risks.

    1. Under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, service buyers have a duty to ensure the safety of contracted freelancers who work under their direction or at their premises.
    2. If a freelancer is injured at work, he or she can pursue a civil claim against the service buyer. Compensation will depend on the facts of the case. For certainty of coverage, freelancers should consider personal accident insurance for their own financial protection in case of injury. As their own boss, freelancers have control over their business model and pricing to negotiate key service terms with service buyers, such as fees and whether to include the cost of their insurance coverage within their contract pricing.
    3. The Government will continue to work with associations to provide guidance on what businesses should do when contracting with freelancers.
    4. Ms Jean See also raised various suggestions at the Budget debate on how to better support freelancers. We will take these suggestions from the labour movement into account as we review how to better protect workers.

    Employment Protections

    27.   Beyond work injury compensation, the Government is also committed to ensuring that our employment regulations remain relevant and provide sufficient protection for employees, while maintaining a competitive business environment that continues to generate good jobs.

    1. Mr Patrick Tay and Mr Raj Joshua Thomas suggested several areas within the Employment Act for review.
    2. The Government reviews the Employment Act regularly together with our tripartite partners, taking into account
      1. changes in the nature of work,
      2. workplace arrangements and
      3. workforce profiles.
    3. I thank members for their suggestions, which we will take into consideration when we next review the Employment Act.
    4. In the meantime, I would like to assure members such as Mr Louis Chua and Associate Professor Jamus Lim that the Government will continue to work closely with our tripartite partners to ensure that exploitative employment practices do not become the norm in our workplaces.
    5. To Associate Professor Jamus Lim’s suggestion to legislate the restraint of trade clauses for employees who are of a certain pay grade. While this sounds easy theoretically, business needs differ, depending on factors such as the nature of work that the employee is engaged in at the time, and the position that the employee holds within the organisation. It will not be appropriate or feasible for tripartite partners to take a one-size-fits-all approach, and prescribe exhaustively. Employees should assess if there is a genuine need for restraint of trade clauses to protect legitimate business interests based on principles that the courts have already previously set up.
    6. In the meantime, I urge employees who believe that they have been subject to such practices to seek assistance from their unions or the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP).
    7. Members would be aware that tripartite partners are releasing guidelines on the use of such clauses in the second half of this year. These guidelines will shape norms of behaviour to strengthen fairness in the use of such clauses in employment contracts.

  4. Migrant Worker Welfare

    28.   As Minister mentioned, we are strongly committed to strengthening Singaporeans’ job prospects and career health. At the same time, we need to transform the migrant worker ecosystem and improve their well-being.

    29. Through collaborations with more than 160 partners including stakeholders like dormitory operators and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), we have made significant improvements in migrant workers’ well-being in a holistic way, from their workplace concerns, to housing, healthcare and social needs.

    30.   MOM has made significant moves in migrant worker housing in 2023.

    1. We expanded the scope of the Foreign Employee Dormitories Act to cover all dormitories housing more than 6 workers, to ensure dormitories are well managed with good health and safety standards in place.
    2. We also announced the Dormitory Transition Scheme, to transition almost 1,000 existing dormitories to improved standards by the year 2030.
    3. And by 2040, all regulated dormitories including new and existing ones will meet even higher dormitory standards.
    4. These measures will strengthen public health resilience and better prepare us for future disease outbreaks.

    31.   Mr Louis Chua mentioned the need to ensure that companies are able to access adequate accommodation at reasonable standards and prices.

    1. Pre-COVID, the number of dormitory beds available was sized to adequately meet the demand, with a healthy 90% occupancy rate.
    2. When the economy re-opened after COVID-19, employers were desperate to catch up on projects that were delayed by COVID-19 and have been hiring more migrant workers.
    3. Today, the number of Work Permit Holders in the Construction, Marine and Process sectors is 20% higher than pre-COVID days.
    4. This led to a market-induced, relative shortage of dormitory beds.

    32.   MOM has been working closely with key stakeholders to make more dormitory beds available to accommodate this growth, while ensuring they meet MOM’s dormitory standards.

    1. Since December 2022, 17,000 more dormitory beds have been added through various measures.
    2. About 47,000 more will be available over the next few years as seven more Purpose-Built Dormitories come into operation.

    33.   These measures have to help to alleviate pressure on the broader housing market and rental prices.

    1. However, the growth in the migrant worker population has outpaced the increase in dormitory supply.
    2. It is not sustainable to keep building migrant worker dormitories or adding more beds to house new workers.
    3. Because when the catch-up projects are completed and the excess workers return to their home countries, we may end up swinging to the other extreme and end up with an excess of dormitory beds.

    34.   Thus, the more sustainable way forward is for employers to reduce their reliance on migrant workers by adopting productivity measures.

    1. I’m glad Mr Louis Chua agrees with us that this is the right thing to do.
    2. This is why we have the Skills Recognition Framework in place, which encourages employers to retain experienced and skilled Work Permit holders through lower levies.
    3. Ms He Ting Ru suggested that employers should be required to wait one month before repatriating migrant workers. Her concerns arise from retaliation by the employers. Should this be the case, the workers could approach the authorities, and we will inform them of their rights and the avenues to seek help. We will investigate the issue, and issue a special pass to allow the worker to remain in Singapore until investigations are complete. If employers have been found to be victimising their employees, enforcement action will be taken against the relevant employers.
    4. I hope we do not forget that, at times, the migrant workers themselves might be at fault. For example, if a migrant domestic worker has been mistreating children in a household, I think it will be reasonable to expect the employee to continue keeping the migrant domestic worker in a household, and to continue providing for their upkeep, instead of repatriating them immediately.

    35.   Mr Louis Ng asked how we will safeguard the well-being of migrant workers and ensure they receive fair treatment. As the Member has previously raised similar questions in Parliament,          I will provide a brief overview.

    1. In setting the minimum living space per resident for dormitories, we have to balance liveability against cost and land-take considerations. The new dormitory standards are in line with the standards set by the International Labour Organization (ILO) for workers’ housing.
    2. On food hygiene, employers and dormitory operators must only procure food from licensed food establishments. MOM also conducts regular inspections on dormitories to check that food delivered to the dormitories is protected from contamination until it is collected by the residents.
    3. Mr Louis Ng suggested to increase the penalties for employment kickbacks.
      1. Currently, offenders may be sentenced to imprisonment of up to 2 years, fines of up to $30,000, or both, for each worker affected.
      2. Thus far, the penalties imposed by the Courts have not reached the maximum fine or imprisonment term.
      3. This indicates that the current caps remain sufficient.
    4. We have also strengthened protections for workers to encourage them to come forward early without fear of reprisal as we will facilitate a change of employer, if necessary.
      1. Workers can report kickbacks through multiple avenues, such as
        1. our MOM hotline,
        2. to our FAST Team officers deployed to the ground,
        3. or through the FWMOMCare app.

    36.   Since 2022, we have implemented the Primary Care Plan to improve access to healthcare for migrant workers and established the Friends of ACE network to expand our outreach efforts. We will also continue working with partners to enhance programmes and events in the Recreation Centres to better meet migrant workers’ social needs.

  5. Conclusion

    37.   Mr Chairman, to uplift Singaporeans, the Government has put in place measures to boost the retirement adequacy of our seniors and improve protections of our workers. At the same time, we have continued to transform the migrant worker ecosystem by improving existing housing and healthcare needs and increasing engagements with our migrant workers.

38.   We will continue to work closely with stakeholders, including our tripartite partners, to implement the initiatives I have shared about. With the support of the whole-of-society, I am confident that we can uplift those who are more vulnerable among us as we build a shared future together.