The Budget 2023 Statement was delivered by Finance Minister Lawrence Wong in Parliament earlier today. The Budget themed “moving forward in a new era” aims to:
- Help Singaporeans seize new opportunities
- Strengthen the country’s social compact
- Give assurance to families
2022 has been a brutal year but as a result of various initiatives by the Government and organisations like the NTUC, resident unemployment fell to 2.8 per cent in December 2022 – even below pre-pandemic levels!
In his Budget speech, Mr Wong says that the best strategy to deal with inflation is to be more productive and competitive, so workers can earn more and the increase in earnings can make up for higher prices.
On the road to growing our economy and equipping our workers, what support then, is available for each worker group?
DPM Wong has promised to help parents better balance their work and family commitments, and look after their children. He further announced that the Government-Paid Paternity Leave will be doubled from 2 weeks to 4 weeks for eligible working fathers of Singaporean children born on or after 1 January 2024. Employers are encouraged to adopt the voluntary Tripartite Standard on Flexi-Work Arrangements and to make these arrangements more pervasive.
The NTUC U Women & Family has been fighting the good fight to support women workers to stay in the workforce or to renter the workforce should they have caregiving responsibilities at home. In a Facebook post, Ms Yeo Wan Ling, director of the NTUC’s U SME as well as its Women and Family Unit shared, “Together with the normalizing of Flexible Work Arrangements, this will go a long way to ensure that caregiving responsibilities are shared and our women workers can reach their full potential in the workplace or at home!”
Gig Workers – CPF transition support
For platform workers, the proposals include adjusting CPF contribution rates for younger platform workers and platform companies, to be aligned with that of employees and employers. The labour movement has previously however, voiced concerns that should CPF contributions be implemented, there needs to be necessary support provided for platform workers through the transition period, to mitigate the impact on their take-home pay. The budget acknowledges NTUC’s ground feedback and has provided for a CPF transition support, to help workers through this transitional process.
Mature / Middle-income Workers – Training and CPF
DPM Wong shared in his Budget 2023 speech that sometimes, even workers don’t know what training programmes to go for. Training programmes can vary in quality. The Company Training Committee (CTC) was launched in April 2019 by the NTUC to support workers in achieving better work prospects through company training.
DPM Wong shared that there is a need to develop labour market intermediaries who can work with industry, training, and employment facilitation partners to optimise training and job placement. Hence, Jobs-Skills Integrators will be appointed to engage enterprises to understand the manpower and skills gap in the sector.
On retirement adequacy, over the years, the NTUC has been calling for CPF contribution salary ceilings to be reviewed to ensure middle-income workers have enough retirement funds in their accounts. The Government will increase the CPF monthly salary ceiling from $6,000 to $8,000 by 2026.
Senior Workers – Supporting them should they want to work
Back in 2018, the Labour Movement called for tripartite discussions on raising the retirement and re-employment ages. In response, the Government set up the Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers, who reached consensus to raise the Statutory Retirement Age from 62 to 65, and the re-employment age ceiling from 67 to 70 progressively.
For seniors who are working, the Senior Employment Credit will be extended to 2025, as will the Part-time Re-employment Grant. CPF contribution rates for senior workers will be increased and CPF Transition Offset will be provided. Some of these were actually part of NTUC Deputy Secretary General Heng Chee How’s calls during his Budget debate speech last year. Together, all these initiatives will better support senior workers who want to continue working.
Lower Wage Workers
For lower-wage workers, the Government is looking into:
- Continuing to uplift their wages
- Reskilling and upskilling
The Progressive Wage Model, first mooted by the NTUC, has expanded to more sectors and occupations. Companies that employ foreign workers to pay all local employees at least the Local Qualifying Salary. To provide transitional support for businesses, the Progressive Wage Credit Scheme will also be topped up by $2.4 billion. Together, these moves cover the vast majority of lower wage workers, and will help to uplift them.
Budget 2023 and Beyond
The outlook for 2023 and beyond remains mixed – while there are weaknesses, economists do not expect a global recession this year. But, uncertainties lurk. Singaporeans should be prepared and be ready to pivot swiftly.
So, what are your thoughts on the Budget 2023 announcements? What more can be done? The NTUC has been engaging workers through the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations to better understand the issues on the ground. You can also share your thoughts, concerns and aspirations at conversations.ntuc.sg.