Covid-19: Singapore to give freelancers S$1,000 monthly payout for nine months, higher training allowances

Singapore freelancers in the gig economy, such as taxi drivers, will receive S$1,000 a month for nine months  to help them tide over the Covid-19 pandemic. — TODAY file pic
Singapore freelancers in the gig economy, such as taxi drivers, will receive S$1,000 a month for nine months to help them tide over the Covid-19 pandemic. — TODAY file pic

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SINGAPORE, March 26 — Freelancers in the gig economy — such as taxi drivers, private-hire car drivers, real estate agents and other self-employed persons — will receive S$1,000 a month for nine months under a new scheme to help them tide over the Covid-19 pandemic, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said today.

The Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, or Sirs, is expected to benefit most self-employed individuals in Singapore, said Heng in his ministerial statement on a supplementary budget which is geared towards protecting jobs and livelihoods.

A total of S$1.2 billion will be set aside for the scheme, which will be jointly developed by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). More details will be provided by the MOM, said Heng.

Said Heng: “We plan to provide direct cash assistance to more self-employed persons. Some of them have less means and family support and need help to tide over this difficult period.”

In addition, a one-off cash payout of S$3,000 will be disbursed to low-income Singaporean workers, including freelancers, who are on Workfare. In the February Budget 2020 announcements, Heng had also announced a Workfare Special Payment amounting to 20 per cent of the payout low-income workers received in 2019.

The latest enhancements were in response to feedback from freelancers since the Budget 2020 statement.

“Over the last few weeks, I received feedback from the Labour Movement and many self-employed persons calling for stronger support for the self-employed, who have less income security, and whose livelihoods may be worse affected during this period of economic uncertainty,” said Heng.

This group has also been harder to reach out to as they spread across many occupations and industries, he added. They include taxi and private hire car drivers, real estate agents, media and art freelancers, and sport coaches.

They cannot qualify for the Jobs Support Scheme and the Wage Credit Scheme as those apply to employed workers.

Budget 2020 measures had been rolled out to aid the various types of freelancers, such as a S$77 million Point to Point Support Package for taxi and private car hire drivers affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Earlier this month, MOM had also announced that over the next three months, there would be a training allowance of S$7.50 per hour for freelancers attending SkillsFuture courses or selected training programmes.

Heng said today this allowance will be raised to S$10 per hour with effect from May 1, and will be extended until December. This is on top of the “already generous” training subsidies, which cover up to 90 per cent of course fees, said Heng.

The extension of the Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme will cost the Government another S$48 million.

Said Heng: “Looking ahead, we will see how we can better support self-employed persons in strengthening their financial security. We will study this carefully.” — TODAY

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