NTUC seeks unemployment support, benefits for PMEs who lost jobs
Labour movement worried about those aged 40 and above who may take longer to find new jobs
Amid the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic, the labour movement is calling for unemployment support and benefits for professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) who have lost their jobs.
It is especially concerned about those aged 40 years and above as they typically take longer to find new jobs and usually have heavier financial commitments, Mr Patrick Tay, the assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), told the media yesterday.
PMEs who are transitioning between jobs could be given monetary support, said Mr Tay, but added that it will not be a simple exercise.
"There are many things to consider, like what's the trigger event, how much to give, how long to give and when to start giving."
Mr Tay acknowledged there are already a number of support schemes, such as the Covid-19 recovery grant which provides temporary financial support for lower- and middle-income workers who suffer loss of income during the pandemic. But the labour movement wants PMEs to be given help beyond the existing grants.
"It doesn't mean that no help is being given today," said Mr Tay, who co-chairs a PME task force which comprises NTUC and the Singapore National Employers Federation.
"But in terms of unemployment support, we need to put our hearts and minds to it - to layer it on top of the support schemes already available."
The task force conducted a study of 9,000 PMEs between 20 and 60 years old which showed that these workers are worried about job security, and require greater support in employment and training opportunities, he said.
Recent figures show that the labour market was hit again by Covid-19 restrictions this year, with the number of workers employed falling in the second quarter by 15,700, according to preliminary estimates by the Ministry of Manpower.
Retrenchments are also expected to be higher than the previous quarter, estimated at 2,500.
About 39 per cent of the resident workforce today consists of PMEs. This figure could go up to 60 per cent if technicians are included.
While the labour movement wants to help such vulnerable PMEs, Mr Tay said unemployment support has to be provided alongside active labour market policies, like those introduced in Britain and the Scandinavian countries.
"These policies... encourage people to stay employed and engaged in the workforce," he said, adding that these countries require people to show they are actively trying to find a job, such as sending out resumes or going for career fairs.
This will prevent unemployment benefits from being handouts that can end up discouraging people from working, Mr Tay added.
NTUC will also push for more hiring opportunities for mature PMEs so they can transition into quality jobs, and support them in skills-upgrading for career progress.
Besides unemployment support, the study also found that PMEs are concerned about workplace discrimination, with mature PMEs in particular facing challenges due to age or nationality.
Given Singapore's ageing population and growing number of PMEs, the labour movement is concerned, even though the number of errant employers is small.
The task force will make its full set of recommendations in the last quarter of this year.