S$2b of assistance to be disbursed to freelancers, almost double original budget, says Singapore manpower minister | Singapore

The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme helps self-employed individuals such as taxi drivers, private-hire car drivers and real estate agents tide over the Covid-19 pandemic. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, Sept 5 — Self-employed persons are set to receive S$2 billion (RM6.08 billion) in income assistance by year-end, almost double the S$1.2 billion originally set aside, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said on Friday (Sept 4).

“This is a significant expansion of an already sizable programme,” Teo said in Parliament, referring to the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (Sirs), which helps self-employed individuals such as taxi drivers, private-hire car drivers and real estate agents tide over the Covid-19 pandemic.

First announced in March, the scheme involves three quarterly cash payouts of S$3,000 each in May, July and October this year.

Teo said that more than S$1.1 billion has been disbursed to about 190,000 people so far. About 100,000 of them had automatically qualified for the scheme while the rest qualified after submitting an application.

“We have been exercising flexibility in the qualifying criteria to support more self-employed persons. About two in three applications have been approved,” she said.

The remaining one-third of applicants may have been earning incomes higher than the qualifying criteria of not more than S$100,000 in net trade income, are living in high-value properties, or have been the owner of two or more properties with their spouses.

Unsuccessful applicants were redirected to the Covid-19 Support Grant or appropriate agencies for follow-up assistance, she added.

Teo was responding to questions posed by Cheng Li Hui, Member of Parliament (MP) for Tampines Group Representation Constituency (GRC), on the amount disbursed under Sirs.

Cheng asked how the current payout compared to its initial budgetary allocation and if there were plans to continue with the scheme given the bleak economic outlook.

Dennis Tan, MP for Hougang Single Member Constituency, also asked Teo if there will be further assistance for freelancers beyond the scheme.

Teo said that the Singapore government is studying ways to support employees and self-employed persons beyond existing schemes.

Payouts to smaller businesses 

Separately, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that S$15.5 billion of the more than S$16 billion worth of payouts under the Jobs Support Scheme since February this year has gone to small — and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“This accounts for 73 per cent of the local workers supported by the scheme,” he said. More than two million Singaporean workers from 150,000 employers benefit from the scheme meant to help firms pay the wages of resident employees.

Heng, who is also Finance Minister, explained that this was because labour cost tended to be a larger share of SMEs’ overall costs than for bigger firms. As such, the Jobs Support Scheme provides greater support to SMEs.

He was responding to a question by Sengkang GRC MP Louis Chua, who asked for a breakdown of the total number of employees supported by the Jobs Support Scheme according to those in SMEs and non-SMEs.

Chua also asked for a breakdown of help provided based on the employers’ aggregate revenues according to four bands: Less than S$10 million, between S$10 and S$100 million, between S$100 and S$250 million, and more than S$250 million.

To this, Heng provided the following dollar payouts and corresponding percentages of Singaporean workers supported for the respective bands:

  • Below S$10 million: S$5.8 billion in payouts that supported 46 per cent of Singaporean workers
  • Between S$10 million and S$100 million: S$4.0 billion that supported 24 per cent of workers
  • Between S$100 million and S$250 million: S$1.6 billion that supported 9 per cent of workers
  • Above S$250 million: S$4.9 billion that supported 21 per cent of workers — TODAY

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