October 28, 2020

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More than 95,000 job, training opportunities made available so far under SGUnited package: MOM

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SINGAPORE: More than 95,000 opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package have been made...

SINGAPORE: More than 95,000 opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package have been made available to job seekers so far, said Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo on Friday (Sep 4). 

Responding to parliamentary questions, Mrs Teo said the 95,000 opportunities include 65,000 job opportunities, close to 20,000 company-hosted traineeships, attachments or training places and more than 10,000 opportunities under the SGUnited skills programme. 

Announced in May during the fourth Budget to tide Singaporeans through the COVID-19 pandemic, the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package is a S$2 billion programme aimed at creating 100,000 job, attachment and training openings.

The Government has helped to place more than 25,000 individuals with jobs, traineeships and training places, Mrs Teo added, with 24,000 people across various age groups placed into new jobs. 

“About half are in the public sector, with another quarter in the modern services and lifestyle sectors,” she said. “The salary range of jobs can vary depending on the sector and the specific job roles that an individual takes up.”

READ: Naming firms placed on watch list for possible discriminatory hiring practices is counter-productive: Josephine Teo

More than 1,000 fresh graduate trainees have taken up traineeships under the SGUnited traineeships programme, noted the minister.

The majority of the traineeship positions filled are in growth sectors such as information and communications technology and media, professional services and financial services, she added. 

“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.” 

Close to 700 trainees have enrolled in 40 courses under the SGUnited skills programme, Mrs Teo said, adding that the Government has expanded its outreach to increase awareness of the opportunities and reach out to fresh graduates. 

“RIGOROUS SCREENING PROCESS” BY SBF

Workers’ Party Member of Parliament (MP) He Ting Ru wanted to know what was being done to prevent misuse by companies, and if firms that have recently carried out retrenchments are allowed to hire under the traineeship programmes.

A “rigorous screening process” by the Singapore Business Federation (SBF) – the partner for these programmes – is in place, replied Mrs Teo.

The SBF scrutinises each application to ensure that traineeships and attachments are structured “appropriately with clear development plans”, and that firms are not using these programmes to “hire workers for permanent jobs at no cost”, she added.

READ: Commentary: Singapore’s steady seven-month plan to get the economy back on track

Host companies are also required to declare if they have undertaken retrenchment exercises or adopted various cost-cutting measures in their applications.

“If there are grounds to believe that companies are replacing existing employees with trainees in similar roles, such applications will be rejected,” the minister said.

“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,” she added.

Companies also have to submit monthly updates about the traineeships to the SBF, said Mrs Teo, noting that these submissions have to be signed off by the trainees.

“SBF has also made available their staff to handle incidents where the trainee feels that the programme is not well structured or they are not learning as much as they would like,” she added.

With these “necessary” measures in place, it has taken about four to six weeks on average for applications to be approved. 

In light of the “strong interest” in these programmes, Mrs Teo said the SBF has stepped up resources so as to process these applications “as quickly as possible”.

Ms He, in her supplementary questions, also wanted to know if information such as the success rates of companies converting traineeships into permanent jobs will be made known regularly.

Mrs Teo said authorities will be keeping track of this, but noted that “even if a person does not stay in employment with the host company, it does not necessarily mean that the traineeship was not useful”.

“Quite often, individuals having completed the training move on to other better options for employment,” she said.

“So I think we will keep track of it, but we must know that you have to interpret that data quite carefully.”

RETRENCHMENTS AND TEMPORARY LAYOFFS

Responding to another parliamentary question about retrenchment numbers, Mrs Teo said preliminary figures from survey data indicate that 5,280 Singapore citizens were retrenched in the first half of 2020. 

And an estimated 11,000 Singapore citizens and 33,000 non-citizens were affected by temporary layoffs, she added. Being placed on unpaid leave is “captured” as a temporary layoff.

Since the start of the “circuit breaker” on Apr 6, 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 results in a more than 25 per cent reduction in monthly salaries, the minister said. 

“Based on the notifications received between the start of the circuit breaker period and Aug 20, salary reductions of more than 50 per cent are a small minority,” she said. 

“We’re not able to provide the breakdown between citizens and permanent residents, as the distinction was not made in the notification by employers.”

According to figures for the second quarter of 2020, there were an estimated 90,500 unemployed residents in June 2020, compared to 73,900 in December 2019, Mrs Teo noted, with a difference of 16,600 over six months. 

READ: Singapore jobless rate hits 2.9%, highest in more than a decade; retrenchments double

Of those unemployed, one in three were aged 50 and above, and this proportion “continues to be stable”, she added. 

“This is consistent with the longer time they’ve taken to return to the workforce if they exit.” 

Based on the latest available data on the duration of unemployment, the median period for residents aged 50 and above to return to the workforce was 12 weeks, said the minister.

“This duration has been broadly stable for a number of years, but we should expect it to rise in times of economic downturn, as it is likely to for all age groups although the extent really remains to be seen.”

In another supplementary question, Ms He asked if the Manpower Ministry would consider publishing “more granular updates” monthly, especially during the current crisis period.

“This is for us to actually be able to monitor and see whether … the many, many schemes that have actually been introduced are actually working, and how effective they are, whether there are areas that actually need extra support,” she said.

Reporting employment statistics on a more regular basis “has been the plan”, said Mrs Teo, adding that the Government is exploring whether unemployment data can be provided reliably on a monthly basis. 

“It is not a question of whether we can provide the statistics more regularly, it has to do with whether it is reliable and you can count on it for decision making,” she said. 

“And if it is not reliable because the dataset is not going to be large enough, then by providing even more granular data at even closer intervals, it doesn’t necessarily help in decision making.” 

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