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Boosting the employment rates of persons with disabilities in Singapore's workforce

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has recently started collecting data on the employment of persons with disabilities (PwDs), and Minister of State for Manpower, Zaqy Mohamad shared the data (available from 2018 onwards), in response to queries by MP Chong Kee Hiong.

More than a quarter (28.6%) of resident PwDs in the working ages of 15 to 64 are employed. Another 4.2% in this age range were without a job and actively looking for one, which translates into a resident unemployment rate of 12.9%. The remaining two-thirds of PwDs aged 15 to 64 were outside the labour force, with most of them citing poor health or disability as the main reason.

Minister Zaqy also shared a breakdown of employment rates by age bands: "The resident employment rates for PwDs were 27.6% for those aged 15 to 39; 37.8% for those aged between 40 to 49; 26.1% for those aged between 50 to 64; and 5.9% for those aged 65 and above."

Thus, the highest employed PWDs are aged between 40-49 years.

Meanwhile, community, social and personal services, together as a sector account for the highest employment of resident PwDs. This is followed by employment in food services, administrative and support services, and manufacturing.

Together, these four sectors account for more than half of PwD employment.

ALSO READ: New job redesign guide to boost inclusion of persons with disabilities at work

Additionally, to enable more PwDs of working age to be active in the labour force, he cited the following programmes:

  • In 2012, MOM extended SEC to employers that hire Singaporeans with disabilities of all ages earning up to $4,000 a month.
  • SEC provides an automatic wage offset of up to 16% of the employee’s monthly income for PwDs aged below 67, and up to 22% for PwDs aged 67 and over.
  • Last year, more than 5,700 employers hiring over 8,600 Singaporeans with disabilities benefited from SEC. This number has increased from 2012, when SEC was paid to around 3,200 employers hiring about 5,000 Singaporeans with disabilities.
  • From January 2016 to June this year, close to 780 companies have hired more than 2,000 PwDs with support from the Adapt and Grow initiative. At least 60% of these PwDs remained employed after 6 months.

He reminded employers and PwDs to tap on the employment support services under the Adapt and Grow initiative, which includes the ODP. The ODP Training Grant provides a subsidy of up to 90% of course fees to support the training of PwDs and their co-workers. The ODP Job Redesign Grant provides employers with funding of up to 90% of the job redesign costs, capped at $20,000 per PwD.

For employers and PwDs who may have reservations about job fit and the suitability of the work environment, the Career Trial provides an opportunity to try out each other. Going on for up to three months, jobseekers receive a training allowance from the Government.

Minister Zalsy also cited the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) and Workfare Training Support (WTS), which were extended to lower-wage PwDs of all ages in 2012 and 2017 respectively. WIS tops up the salaries and CPF savings of lower-wage PwDs, with up to $3,600 in cash and CPF contributions annually, while WTS provides support such as course fee subsidies, monetary awards, and more.

In 2018, more than 6,400 Singaporeans with disabilities benefited from WIS, up from more than 3,500 in 2012. The number of Singaporeans with disabilities who benefited from WTS training also increased last year to about 860, up from about 640 in 2017.

In March this year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) announced the formation of a new workgroup to look at preparing PwDs for the future economy.

The workgroup is co-chaired by Minister of State for Social and Family Development, Sam Tan, and Mayor Denise Phua. They are  engaging PwDs and their caregivers, social service agencies and other disability stakeholders to better understand the needs, challenges and aspirations of PwDs. The workgroup aims to release their recommendations early next year.

"Inclusive employment requires collaboration amongst the public, private and people sectors," Minister Zaqy affirmed.

Photo / 123RF

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