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MOM responds to Parliamentary questions on job automation and more

In line with Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's Budget 2019 delivery on Monday, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has released a number of Parliamentary replies to key questions.

The questions were related to job automation, foreign manpower, people with special needs and disabilities, workplace injuries, CPF payouts, self-employed people, and the Silver Scheme.

One of the questions raised was by Member of Parliament (MP) Cheng Li Hui, on whether MOM monitors the number of jobs lost due to new technologies and automation in regard to the number of jobs created in Singapore.

In response, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said: "There are no internationally-accepted conventions on estimating job creation or losses due to new technologies and automation, as the effect is often indirect.

However, in our national manpower statistics, we do monitor employment numbers, which have continued to grow even as technology and automation are transforming industries."

She then added that in 2018, total employment (excluding foreign domestic workers) increased by 40,000, with "particularly strong growth in the technology-intensive Infocomm & Media sector."

Minister Zaqy Mohamad and Minister Teo on foreign manpower

Foreign manpower was another topic brought up in Parliament.

Firstly, MP Dr Lee Bee Wah asked the following:

  1. What is the employment screening process for foreigners applying for a work permit?
  2. In the past three years, how many applicants have been rejected because of their unsatisfactory records?
In response, Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad said: "Apart from assessing work permit applications on whether they meet our  work pass rules such as dependency ratio and source, the applicant will also be screened for any security antecedents and adverse records.

"This screening of applicants helps to minimise incidence where undesirable persons are inadvertently allowed to work in Singapore."

Further, he said between 2016 and 2018, there were about 8,400 applicants rejected per year on average, resulting from the screening.

Separately, Minister Teo responded to MP Ong Teng Koon's questions on:

  • Whether overseas retailers of consumer goods are allowed to supply labour to install such goods in Singapore for Singapore customers if such labour do not have the requisite permits to work in Singapore.
  • If not, whether the Ministry has any enforcement plans to keep the playing field level for local retailers.
To this, Minister Teo replied all foreigners working in Singapore need to hold a valid work pass, with no exemption for those who install consumer goods such as furniture and air-conditioning from overseas retailers. She explained: "This helps to ensure that all businesses are operating on a level playing field."

Additionally, Minister Teo said under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, illegal workers can be fined a maximum of S$20,000, or subjected to imprisonment of up tot 2 years, or both.

She added: "MOM has also taken action to bar such illegal workers from entering and working in Singapore for up to 2 years.

"Anyone with information on such illegal workers should report to MOM. Information can be found on MOM’s website."

On integrating people with special needs and disabilities in the workforce

MP Anthea Ong raised a few questions concerning employing people with special needs and disabilities.

In particular, she asked about the steps taken by MOM to leverage on Workforce Singapore (WSG) to include and integrate unemployed but employable people with disabilities in to the workforce; and what MOM is doing to advise and collaborate with agencies to ensure these people are prepared for the future economy to prevent them from further marginalisation.

Minister Teo responded by saying WSG works with its partners under the Adapt and Grow initiative to provide job matching services and programmes that will help jobseekers overcome mismatches in skills, wages or job expectations.

She said: "Persons with special needs can tap on these services and programmes to find suitable employment, particularly the Open Door Programme (ODP) and Career Trial. In the past three years, more than 1,600 persons with special needs have been placed through these programmes."

She also added that employers who are unsure about someone with special needs being a good match for the job can enroll them in the Career Trial programme for a short training stint of up to three months. "Since April 2018, all persons with special needs who are hired after the trial will receive retention incentives and their employers will receive salary support."

To add on, Minister Zaqy Mohamad noted, under the Third Enabling Masterplan, the Ministry of Social and Family Development has been engaging with people with special needs and their caregivers to better understand their aspirations, needs and challenges.

He said: "The Government is also working with social service agencies and other partners in the private and people sectors to improve education, training and job placement for persons with special needs, and identify suitable employment opportunities for them."

Minister Zaqy Mohamad on reporting workplace injuries

Additionally, MP Louis Ng had a question on "whether the requirement for reporting work-related or workplace accidents can also include cases where an employee who meets with an accident is placed on light duty by the doctor for more than three days, whether consecutive or not".

To this, Minister Mohamad replied: "Today, reporting is required for all work injuries resulting in medical leave of more than 3 days, consecutive or otherwise, or hospitalisation for at least 24 hours. This is in line with the reporting criteria in other developed countries, such as those in the European Union."

He added that the ministry is studying the possibility of making such reports a requirement. "This has been included in the public consultation on amendments to the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA) launched in January.

"It will allow us to have a more comprehensive picture of the extent of work injuries and will help improve targeting of prevention efforts. We will share more details when the proposed amendments to WICA are finalised in April."

Minister Teo's replies to questions on CPF payouts

In response to a series of questions by MPs on CPF payouts, Minister Teo affirmed the CPF payout eligibility age (PEA) remains at 65, despite allegations that it was pushed to 70. This means CPF members can start their retirement payouts any time from age 65.

However, there will be a cap on the latest age to start CPF payouts, at age 70 effective 2018. In cases where members have not applied to start their payouts, the CPF Board will automatically start the payouts for them.

Minister Teo also emphasised: "If a member wants to start his payout before 70, he can do so any time from his PEA onward; he does not need to wait till 70.

In other words, the latest payout start age is not the same thing as the PEA.  It is a way to ensure members get to enjoy the benefit of their CPF savings by 70 at the latest."

[Read Minister Teo's full replies here]
Aside from her spoken response in Parliament, Minister Teo also wrote a reply to MP Assoc Prof Walter Theseira's request for statistics on CPF members aged 65 and above receiving monthly payouts under the Retirement Sum Scheme and CPF LIFE Schemes.

According to Minister Teo, there were about 268,000 CPF members in that category who received retirement payouts from either scheme. About half were women; 76% owned properties, of which 17% owned private properties, 54% owned 4-room and larger HDB flats, 29% owned 3-room and under HDB flats.

The following breakdown was also provided:


Regarding self-employed people and the Silver Scheme

With regard to the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) eligibility age group, MP Theseira requested data on self-employed people who receive WIS payouts, and the average WIS payout received. To this, Minister Teo wrote a response with two tables detailing the data here.

Further, MP Sylvia Lim asked since the inception of the Silver Support Scheme in 2016:

  • How many Singaporeans who initially received payouts were assessed to be ineligible in subsequent years;
  • What support does the Scheme give to those between the bottom 20% to 30% of elderly Singaporeans;
  • Whether the Scheme's criteria for household monthly income per capita of $1,100 will be reviewed to exclude the income of the applicant's siblings living at the same address.
Minister Teo responded that the ministry will review the scheme from time to time to ensure continual provision of meaningful support to elderly who always received low incomes, and who have little or no family support. She said: "We will also continue to assess appeals from those who have missed the income criteria on a case-by-case basis."

Lead photo / 123RF

Table on CPF payouts / MOM

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