D. Strengthening Our Social Compact

 

D. Strengthening Our Social Compact

  1. D1. I have touched on how we plan to emerge stronger as a workforce and as an economy.
  2. D2. Beyond economic opportunities, what is fundamental is our sense of purpose and our sense of togetherness. Since our independence, we have been seeking to build a fair, just, and caring society. We have been building strong bonds as a people, and deepening our social compact.
  3. D3. In this pandemic, we have seen how Singaporeans united in adversity and supported one another.
    1. a. Social cohesion does not happen naturally. Even before COVID-19, many societies were facing sharp divisions due to widening inequalities, increasing diversity of interests and voices, and growing distrust. The pandemic has deepened the cracks in many societies.
    2. b. Singapore is not immune to these challenges. We must continue to strengthen our social fabric, and reject forces of division and discord.
  4. D4. Over the years, the Government has been investing significantly in three key areas:
    1. a. We subsidise healthcare heavily, to ensure that every Singaporean has access to affordable and quality healthcare.
    2. b. We invest in education to ensure that every Singaporean has access to opportunities to maximise their potential, regardless of their starting point in life.
    3. c. We promote home ownership, with significant subsidies for public housing. Home ownership enables Singaporeans to share in the nation’s growth, while ensuring a roof over their heads even in times of uncertainty like this.

Emerging Stronger as a Society

  1. D5. Strengthening our social compact will always be a work-in-progress. As we recover from this crisis of a generation, let us strive to emerge stronger as a society.
  2. D6. In June last year, we launched the Emerging Stronger Conversations in the midst of the pandemic. I thank the 17,000 individuals who participated and shared their views.
    1. a. I am glad that many expressed their wish for a fair, equal, and caring society, with more support for vulnerable groups, such as lower-wage workers and persons with disabilities.
    2. b. Last June, I also announced that we would form Singapore Together Alliances for Action, or AfAs. These will become a key approach to forging partnerships and cross-sector collaborations to pursue new growth areas, and to tackle complex issues, including those that have come up through the Emerging Stronger Conversations.
    3. c. Within eight months, 15 AfAs have been formed or announced, alongside other existing partnerships and collaborations.
    4. d. Going forward, the National Council of Social Service and SG Enable will also form an AfA on support for caregivers of persons with disabilities. This AfA will build on the good work of our community partners and individuals, and harness their resources and creativity to co-create solutions to improve support for caregivers.
    5. e. The Minister for Social and Family Development will announce details at the COS.
    6. f. We expect more AfAs to be announced in the months ahead.
  3. Short-Term Relief

  4. D7. In the five Budgets last year, we brought immediate relief and support for families and workers, looking out especially for those who were more badly affected.
    1. a. For families, we provided the Care and Support Package and the Solidarity Payment, which benefited all Singaporeans regardless of income or housing type, with more for the less well-off.
    2. b. For workers, we implemented the COVID-19 Support Grant, the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme, and the Temporary Relief Fund.
    3. c. For the vulnerable groups, we disbursed the Workfare Special Payment to lower-income workers. Grocery Vouchers and additional GST Voucher – U-Save provided further support for lower-income families.
  5. D8. As the economic situation remains uncertain, I will introduce a Household Support Package, to provide additional support to families.
    1. a. First, for lower- and middle-income households. All Singaporeans who are eligible for GST VoucherCash will receive an additional one-off GST Voucher – Cash Special Payment of $200. This is on top of the regular GST Voucher – Cash payment.
    2. b. I will also provide a GST Voucher – U-Save Special Payment to eligible HDB households, amounting to an additional 50% U-Save rebate over one year. Each household will receive additional utilities rebates of between $120 and $200 this year.
    3. c. Second, I will also extend the Service and Conservancy Charges Rebate for all eligible HDB households for another year.
    4. d. Third, for families with Singaporean children below the age of 21, I will provide an additional top-up of $200 per child through the Child Development Account, Edusave Account, or Post-Secondary Education Account, to further support parents as they invest in their children’s future. This will be on top of the annual Edusave top-up for children in primary and secondary schools.
    5. e. Singaporeans’ sense of unity and discipline in observing the precautionary measures such as safe distancing and mask wearing has enabled our progress so far in combating the pandemic. The discipline and understanding of our local merchants and hawkers have also been important. However, they have been quite affected by the safety measures, especially during the Circuit Breaker.
    6. f. To thank all Singaporeans for their sense of solidarity, and to continue to support our heartland businesses and hawkers, I will partner the Community Development Councils, or CDCs, to give all Singaporean households $100 worth of CDC Vouchers per household, to be used at participating heartland shops and hawker centres.
      1. i. I hope that this new tranche of vouchers can bring more business to our hawkers and heartland shops. To resource this, I will provide an additional grant to the CDCs amounting to $150 million. More details will be announced by the CDCs later.
    7. g. Altogether, the Household Support Package will cost about $900 million.
    8. h. This Household Support Package provides some support to all families, with lower- to middle-income families receiving more. (See Annex D-1.)
  6. Looking Further Ahead

  7. D9. Our President, at the Opening of Parliament, spoke about the strengthening of our social safety nets. To strengthen our social compact, we must work together to address the challenges faced by the more vulnerable members of our society. The Government will continue to allocate resources in our annual budgets for this.
  8. D10. Beyond short-term relief, some Singaporeans have been more badly affected by the pandemic. I will highlight three groups that need more support:
    1. a. The first group are workers who are earning low wages or facing more challenges with employment.
    2. b. The second group are lower-income families.
    3. c. The third group are our children with special needs.
  9. D11. Let me first touch on the first group – workers who need more support – starting with our lower-wage workers.
    1. a. Today, we adopt a multi-pronged approach in supporting them.
      1. i. This includes the enhanced Workfare Income Supplement scheme, Workfare Skills Support scheme, the Progressive Wage Model, and Workcare.
    2. b. In October last year, the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers was formed to explore ways to uplift the wages and prospects of our lower-wage workers.
      1. i. The Government’s aspiration is for every sector of the economy to have some form of Progressive Wages. The Tripartite Workgroup is making good progress. The Ministry of Manpower will provide details on the approach for expansion later.
  10. D12. Next, our older workers may also need more support. The Government has been exploring ways to enable older workers to continue working if they want to.
    1. a. PM announced at the National Day Rally in 2019 that we will raise the Retirement Age and Re-employment Age to 63 and 68 respectively in 2022, with the Government and the Labour Movement effecting this a year earlier in 2021.
    2. b. To help businesses adjust, I introduced the Senior Worker Support Package in the Unity Budget last February.
    3. c. I am happy that the take-up rate for the Senior Worker Early Adopter Grant and Part-Time Re-employment Grant, two key components of the Senior Worker Support Package, have exceeded expectations.
      1. i. I thank our businesses for supporting your employees who wish to work longer.
    4. d. To support more companies to move earlier to raise their retirement and re-employment ages, I will increase the budget allocation for the Senior Worker Early Adopter Grant and the Part-Time Re-employment Grant by over $200 million. The Ministry of Manpower will provide more details.
  11. D13. Another segment of workers who may face greater challenges in securing or retaining jobs, are persons with disabilities, or PwDs.
    1. a. To encourage employment and training of PwDs, MSF announced two weeks ago, the creation of 1,200 new job and training opportunities for PwDs.
    2. b. This builds on the various initiatives to boost employment for PwDs, such as the Open Door Programme, and the Enabling Employment Credit.
  12. D14. I have touched on the segments of the workers who need more support. The second group of Singaporeans who have been badly affected by the pandemic are our lower-income families.
    1. a. MSF has been working to strengthen social service delivery and provide holistic support for our lower-income families.
    2. b. Community Link, or ComLink, is one such initiative.
      1. i. Introduced in 2019, ComLink has become one of MSF’s key initiatives to help families with children who are staying in rental housing.
      2. ii. ComLink seeks to provide holistic support to low-income families. By mobilising community assets and galvanising local volunteering efforts, ComLink provides families with the tools and support to do better.
      3. iii. MSF also ensures that ComLink is coordinated with other initiatives such as UPLIFT and KidSTART, to provide families with seamless, holistic support.
    3. c. MSF has made good progress. Since implementation, MSF is supporting about 1,000 families.
    4. d. Madam Soo Bee Keow and her children are one of those who have benefitted from ComLink. Through this initiative, Madam Soo’s family is able to benefit from a range of additional support, from grocery vouchers to back-to-school items which help to offset living expenses, to enrichment programmes for her children such as the kidsREAD programme. (See Annex C-4.)
    5. e. To provide holistic support to more families, I will provide resources for MSF to expand ComLink significantly – to a nationwide programme to eventually cover 14,000 families with children, over the next two years.
    6. f. The Minister for Social and Family Development will provide details at the COS.
  13. D15. Besides vulnerable workers and low-income families, the third group we need to pay special attention to is our children with special needs.
    1. a. Over the years, we have enhanced our support for students with special needs, within MOE schools and in Government-funded special education schools.
      1. i. Children under seven with developmental needs can benefit from a differentiated approach to help them learn better.
      2. ii. Building on these, we will look into piloting an Inclusive Support Programme. This pilot integrates the provision of early intervention and early childhood services for children who require up to medium levels of early intervention support. Many of these children are already attending preschools, and this programme will allow them to be more meaningfully engaged alongside other children. We believe this will benefit all children and help them develop social skills and social inclusion.
  14. D16. Ensuring equal opportunities for all, and supporting the needy and vulnerable segments of our society are integral to strengthening our social compact.
    1. a. We will continue to identify and target groups who may need further support, including emerging groups of workers in more vulnerable areas.
    2. b. For self-employed persons, we will continue to study ways to enhance their job security and strengthen their retirement adequacy. The Government is working with our unions and various agencies on these efforts, including outreach to more self-employed persons.
    3. c. The COVID-19 crisis has increased a sense of vulnerability among our workers. The Government will continue to explore how we can better support our workers to meet the challenges arising from accelerated changes in the economic landscape.

Emerging Stronger as a Community

  1. D17. Next, let me talk about how we will emerge stronger as a community. (See Annex D-2.)
  2. D18. COVID-19 has affected our people in different ways, both tangible and intangible.
    1. a. While safe distancing measures, especially during our Circuit Breaker, have enabled us to keep the virus from spreading, they have also caused feelings of loneliness and isolation in some groups.
  3. D19. Our community partners, charities, and Social Service Agencies have stepped up their support well, and the Government will continue to work closely with them.
  4. D20. However, this sector is facing new challenges.
    1. a. Donations to certain platforms, such as Giving.sg, and for specific causes like COVID-19, have risen.
    2. b. But donations to many charities in general, and income streams for their recurrent programmes, have fallen.
    3. c. Some charities even had to dip into their reserves to keep operations going.
    4. d. This affects the help that goes to those who need it.
    5. e. I encourage individuals and corporates to do more for our charity sector if you can.
  5. D21. The Government has been playing its part.
    1. a. We have a multi-pronged approach to encourage charitable giving. This includes tax incentives for donations made to Institutions of a Public Character or IPCs, and Government grants that match donations raised.
    2. b. As it stands, the current level of 250% tax deduction on donations to IPCs in Singapore is high, compared to other jurisdictions. However, this is set to lapse at the end of 2021.
    3. c. To encourage Singaporeans to give back to the community, and to provide strong support for the charity sector in this time of crisis, I will extend the 250% tax deduction for donations to IPCs for another two years, until the end of 2023.
    4. d. I will also extend the additional government support for Tote Board’s Enhanced Fund-Raising Programme by one year. Charities can apply to receive dollar-for-dollar matching on eligible donations, which are raised from projects in FY2021, up to a cap of $250,000 per applicant. This includes donations raised through approved digital platforms.
    5. e. I hope the additional support will help tide our charities over the crisis, to enable them to do their good work to support the vulnerable in our community.
    6. f. In particular, Community Chest, or ComChest, plays a critical role in raising funds for many Social Service Agencies, including for programmes that uplift lower-income families, such as KidSTART. To encourage more giving during these challenging times, I will support ComChest in two areas:
      1. i. First, I will extend ComChest’s SHARE as One matching period to FY2023. The SHARE as One scheme provides dollar-for-dollar matching for new and additional donations through the SHARE programme, which enables corporates, employees and individuals to commit to regular giving.
      2. ii. Second, I will set aside $20 million for a new Change for Charity Grant. There is potential for businesses to do more to facilitate spontaneous acts of daily giving, for example, by encouraging their customers to make donations at the point of transaction. The Grant will match ComChest donations raised through this new initiative. The grant also co-funds one-off development costs needed to integrate or enhance donation functions onto businesses’ payment platforms.
      3. iii. The Minister for Social and Family Development will share details at the COS.
  6. D22. Besides philanthropy, we also seek to encourage volunteerism.
    1. a. Businesses can play an important role in kickstarting their employees’ volunteering journey.
    2. b. Singtel is an example of a strong corporate advocate for employee volunteerism. From supporting children and youth with special needs, to enabling digital inclusion for the older generation, Singtel volunteers have been actively engaging the community they serve. This year, Singtel employees have been volunteering at Senior Activity Centres, to teach seniors how to use smart phones and equip them with basic digital skills to stay in touch with loved ones online and make cashless payments. (See Annex C-4.)
    3. c. To encourage more corporate volunteerism, I will extend the Business and IPC Partnership Scheme for another two years, until the end of 2023.
    4. d. I encourage our corporates to partner our IPCs. Together, we can make a bigger impact to meet the diverse needs of our community.
  7. D23. Despite the stresses that Singaporeans face in this period, we continue to hear many heart-warming stories of our people stepping up to make a difference.
    1. a. I recently met a group of Singaporeans who came together in the early days of the pandemic to set up N-Lab, a surgical mask manufacturing facility in Singapore. The core group served NS together. They put in close to $1 million of their own capital to design and manufacture masks, and donated many masks to the community. This is a good example of SG Together – where we come together to make a difference. And also a testament to the enduring value of NS! (See Annex C-4.)
    2. b. I hope these acts of kindness will inspire more people to come forward.
    3. c. Apart from national level efforts, efforts by the community – voluntary organisations, corporate partners and individuals, enable us to meet the diverse needs of different groups who need support, especially at the ‘last-mile’.
    4. d. To provide greater support for bottom-up, innovative initiatives which address the needs of the community, the Government will provide three dollars for every dollar raised, for the CDCs’ Care and Innovation Fund. I will set aside $50m for this matching grant.
    5. e. The CDCs will share more details later.