Story by Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat
Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat has just spent the greater part of two hours delivering his Budget 2019 speech in Parliament on 18 February.
While it touches on a strategic plan to build a strong, united Singapore, we’ve broken it down and zoomed in on the highlights that matter to us working people.
Time To Get With The Programme
Whether you’re a fan or not, technology has changed the world we work and live in. Rapid developments are changing our work environments and the way business gets done. This year’s budget is all about making industry transformation real for us.
With a nod to tripartism, Minister Heng announced initiatives such as financing support for businesses, and the extension of the Automation Support Package. The idea here is for businesses to be able to tap technology, scale up operations and ride the waves of change. And just as importantly, for us workers to transform along with them businesses.
[Read more: Tech is all the rage. And here’s how it can make a positive difference.]
[Read more: Technology as a training aid.]
[Read more: Digital change and the positive impact it brings.]
Win – Win Outcomes
Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be particularly happy to know that they will now have financial support in tapping new technology to help boost operations, efficiency and productivity. This is thanks to enhancements in the Enterprise Development Grant and Productivity Solutions Grant.
Employee training, too, will be a component that these firms can tap the grant for.
The best part? For the 90 per cent of us working in SMEs, we’ll be pleased to know that these grants require our companies to share the benefits with us – such as wage increases!
[Click here to watch the video.]
Yay For Mid-Career Switches
Change isn’t going to be easy, and this is where the introduction of new Professional Conversion Programmes can help mid-career professionals tap new areas of growth. This is particularly in the realms of blockchain, embedded software and prefabrication.
A two-year extension to the Career Support Programme will also go a long way in helping employers defray wage costs so when hiring those among us who are older, retrenched or been unemployed for an extended period of time.
The Internship Boost
To help young Singaporeans in their development beyond the classroom, Minister Heng also introduced a Global Ready Talent Programme which will offer more internship opportunities, both locally and abroad.
Under this programme, those of us working in promising local firms can also potentially get support with overseas job postings.
[Read more: Three youths share how an internship has made a difference in their careers.]
Support For Older Workers
We often say that age is just a number. This is where a Tripartite Workgroup on Older Workers will be formed to look into policies such as retirement and re-employment age as well as thornier issues like CPF contribution rates.
Some $366 million will also be devoted to supporting companies with the employment of older workers through the Special Employment Credit (SEC) and Additional SEC schemes, which will be extended till the end of 2020.
[Read more: Age is just a number for these guys.]
Leaving No Worker Behind
To help workers earning low wages, the Government has set aside an additional $206 million to enhance the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) from January 2020.
The improvement will see 440,000 Singaporeans earning $2,300 or less get up to $400 more in their annual payout (WIS). As a Bicentennial Bonus, this group of workers will also get to enjoy a one-off Workfare Bicentennial Bonus of between $100 to $360.
Bicentennial Bonus? Yes, this part of Budget 2019 will excite many of us.
Singapore has come a long way in the 200 years since Sir Stamford Raffles first dropped by, and to commemorate this milestone, a grand $1.1 billion Bicentennial Bonus will be shared with all Singaporeans.
Thanks to this, some 1.4 million of us can expect to receive up to $300 in GST Vouchers in our bank accounts.
Parents will be particularly pleased with the news that there will be a $150 Edusave top-up for our children in the primary and secondary levels. Youths aged between 17 to 20 can get up to $500 topped up into their Post-Secondary Education Accounts.
For some 300,000 older Singaporeans aged between 50 to 64 with lower CPF balances, the Government will be making a one-off top up of up to $1,000.
Additionally, some 930,000 households will see their Service and Conservancy Charges Rebates extended by another year at a cost of $132 million.
Recognising Our Merdeka Generation
Singapore wouldn’t be what it is today if not for the contributions of our Merdeka Generation*. As a gesture of appreciation and gratitude for the pivotal role they played in Singapore’s development, the Merdeka Generation Package aims to provide this group of 500,000 Singaporeans with support for their healthcare costs and help them lead healthy, active lifestyles.
In a nutshell, the Merdeka Generation will receive a one-off $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver card which they can use to pay for public transport and activities at community clubs.
They will also receive annual Medisave top-ups of $200 per year from 2019 through to 2023, and get additional subsidies for outpatient care at polyclinics and public Specialist Outpatient Clinics.
Singaporeans aged 50 and above who do not receive the Merdeka Generation Package or Pioneer Generation Package will also receive a $100 in MediSave top-ups each year from 2019 to 2023.
On top of all of that, they will also receive additional Medishield Life premium subsidies of five per cent. This will increase to 10 per cent after the age of 75. Come 2021 when Careshield Life becomes available, they will be entitled to an additional participation incentive of $1,500.
*Defined as Singaporeans aged between 60 and 69 (born between 1950 to 1959; and became Singapore citizens by 1996). They also include Singaporeans born in, or before, 1949; and became Singapore citizens by 1996 and who did not receive the Pioneer Generation Package.