Over $5.5 billion will be paid out to employers under the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) of wage subsidies this month, benefiting some 1.9 million local employees. It is the third such payout since the scheme was announced in the Budget in February. It brings the total amount disbursed under the scheme to more than $21.5 billion. The scheme was recently extended to cover wages paid up to March next year for sectors harder hit by the Covid-19 crisis, and up to December this year for sectors that are managing well. Those in the aviation, tourism and built environment sectors get the highest tier of support, followed by those in food services, retail, arts and entertainment, land transport, and marine and offshore.
While the JSS has been a welcome move to cushion the blow from the coronavirus pandemic, the scheme – whose subsidy levels were reduced starting from September – may not be enough on its own to save some firms and jobs. There is uncertainty over whether employees’ wage levels can be maintained, now that the National Wages Council has given companies the go-ahead to implement temporary wage cuts to save jobs. The council had in March urged firms to reduce non-wage costs first before cutting salaries. But Singapore’s economy has since entered a recession, with the resident unemployment rate hitting 4.5 per cent in August.