After a recent parliament sitting, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) released a series of written responses on several topics including workplace discrimination, the Progressive Wage Model framework, and Workfare Income Supplement. 

Key points summed up below.

When asked by MP Muhamad Faisal Bin Abdul Manap for the breakdown of the number of discrimination cases that the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) has investigated, Minister for Manpower, Josephine Teo said: "In the first half of 2020, TAFEP / Ministry of Manpower (MOM) investigated 260 cases of possible breaches of the Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices for discriminatory practices." 

Of these, 70 employers had penalties imposed on them, none of which were repeat offenders. 

On the topic of the frequency in which the MOM tracks the feelings of discrimination among Singaporean employees, the minister noted that public perception of fair employment practices are tracked through regular polls and also more detailed surveys of employment practices.

The most recent public sentiment on the topic can be found in the Employment Standards Report published by MOM in November 2020 which included a special feature on fair workplaces.

During the same sitting, MP Mariam Jaafar quizzed the minister on the statistics of in-house cleaners (hired directly by companies), as well as if this segment can be included under the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) framework.

To this, the Manpower Minister said: "Based on a combination of MOM’s Labour Force Survey and NEA’s data, we estimate that about 22,000 out of 43,000 full-time cleaners are employed in-house by non-cleaning companies"

While these cleaners are not currently under the PWM, Teo noted that the median gross monthly income (excluding employer CPF) for outsourced cleaners has increased from $1,000 in 2014 to $1,300 in 2019.

She said: "This is comparable to the median gross monthly income for in-house cleaners, which is estimated to be around $1,300." 

Apart from the comparable wages, Teo added that increasing the number of workers covered by PWMs is something the recently-announced Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers will examine. This will include the cleaners working for non-cleaning companies.

Note: In-house cleaners are not under the PWM because the regulatory lever for PWM is through NEA’s licensing requirement for cleaning companies. 

Minister Teo also received a number of questions regarding the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme, from MP Jamus Jerome Lim, and MP Carrie Tan. 

In response to Lim's question about the share of those earning below S$1,300 who receive the WIS, the minister said: "Nearly 8 in 10 Singaporean workers who are 35 years old and above and earn wages below $1,300 per month through part-time or full-time employment, receive Workfare payouts."

She noted that those not eligible for the payouts either live in a property with an annual value exceeding $13,000 (which covers all public housing), or own two or more properties, or have a spouse whose assessable income exceeds $70,000.

Lim also asked for an average breakdown of income in terms of wage earnings only versus WIS payouts. 

To this, Teo explained: "Workfare payouts vary according to salary and age. The average monthly salary of employed Singaporeans who are eligible for Workfare, is $1,300. About two-thirds of Workfare recipients are aged 55 and above.

"For those aged 60 and above, the annual Workfare payout of $4,000 tops up this average income by 26%, while for those aged 55 to 59, the annual Workfare payout of $3,300 provides a 21% boost. For younger age groups, the annual Workfare payouts range from $1,700 to $2,500, providing income top-ups of between 11% and 16%."

On the same topic, Tan asked for the rationale for introducing spousal income instead of per capita income criterion in WIS eligibility, as well as whether exceptions can be made for individuals who are estranged from their spouses. 

Teo noted that the assessable income of a potential recipient’s spouse and the total number of properties owned by the potential recipient and their spouse, were introduced as qualifying criteria in 2013 to help ensure that the WIS provides targeted support to lower-wage workers with limited household wealth.

She added: "We appreciate that there are genuine cases of spousal estrangement. Appeals are considered on a case-by-case basis and exceptions have been made."

Note: The Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) scheme encourages Singaporeans who earn lower wages and have less family support to work regularly and build up their CPF savings. Other qualifying criteria include property holdings and spousal income. This helps to ensure that Workfare provides targeted support to lower-wage workers with limited household wealth.

Photo / 123RF

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