Mr Chong Kee Hiong
MP for Bishan Toa Payoh
Dr Tan Wu Meng
MP for Jurong
Mr Chong Kee Hiong: To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development what has been the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the employment prospects and status of those with special needs and persons with disabilities and how is the Ministry progressing with measures to raise inclusivity during this challenging period.
Dr Tan Wu Meng: To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) whether the Ministry monitors (i) the retrenchment rates for persons with disabilities (PWDs) and (ii) the proportion later found to have been 'disguised retrenchments'; (b) if so, how do these findings compare with employees who are not PWDs; and (c) what is the average duration before a retrenched PWD finds new employment.
1 Based on the latest available survey data from the Ministry of Manpower, there were 4.9 residents retrenched per 1,000 resident employees in the first half of 2020. This is higher than the incidence rate for the same period a year ago, which was at 2.5 residents retrenched per 1,000 resident employees. The re-entry rate of retrenched residents in the first half of 2020 was 61.4%, lower than that in the same period a year ago, which was at 63.2%. MOM does not have a further breakdown of these indicators by persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities. Similarly, we do not track statistics on complaints of “disguised retrenchments” from persons with disabilities. That said, I would like to assure Members that as the Minister for Manpower explained to this House on the 4th of June this year, the Ministry of Manpower will take appropriate actions against employers who disguise retrenchment to avoid fulfilling their contractual obligations.
2 To help retrenched workers secure new jobs, the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation proactively reaches out to them to provide timely employment support. This includes matching them to suitable jobs and training opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. In the first half of 2020, the Taskforce reached out to about 8,200 affected workers. The Taskforce will continue to engage retrenching companies on responsible retrenchment practices.
3 SG Enable and its job placement and job support partners have implemented additional measures during this challenging period. SG Enable has reached out to persons with disabilities who stopped working since the start of the year, to encourage them to sign up for employment support services. Job support initiatives are offered online as far as possible, while considering the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities. SG Enable’s Virtual Career Fair held from April to May 2020 offered over 100 job opportunities, and another 150 job opportunities were advertised during their online Training and Career Fair in September. To facilitate e-learning, SG Enable helped training providers to convert lessons into online modules. Where training cannot be conducted virtually, SG Enable has put in place safe management practices to ensure that the health of clients and trainers are not compromised.
4 These additional efforts to support persons with disabilities come on top of existing training and job placement and job support services that SG Enable provides under the Open Door Programme. The Open Door Programme training grant was recently enhanced in July, with more course fee subsidies and training allowance, as well as a new training commitment award of $100 per completed eligible training course. We will replace the wage offsets for employers of persons with disabilities under the Special Employment Credit (SEC) and Additional SEC with the Enabling Employment Credit (EEC) when the former expire in December 2020. The EEC will provide employers that hire Singaporean persons with disabilities earning below $4,000 a month with wage offsets of up to 20% of the employee’s monthly income. Employers hiring persons with disabilities who have not been working for at least six months will receive an additional wage offset of up to 10% for the first six months of employment.
5 It is encouraging that despite the challenges of COVID-19, many employers are still committed to inclusive hiring, and over 140 organisations have signed the President’s Challenge Enabling Employment Pledge since it was launched in March this year. While many persons with disabilities and their caregivers tell us that they are temporarily exiting the workforce due to concerns over contracting COVID-19, we will continue to engage them and strive to serve more jobseekers as the situation stabilises and more activities resume. We are also working through the National Jobs Council to provide further support for those who need it, and we will announce these plans when ready.