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Unemployment Support During Retrenchment? What Type Of Support Singapore Workers Need To Return To The Workforce

While it’s a new concept in Singapore, unemployment support is vital as it supports retrenched workers during a period when they need it most.

This article was written in collaboration with the Labour Movement. All views expressed in this article are the independent opinion of based on our research. is not liable for any financial losses that may arise from any transactions and readers are encouraged to do their own due diligence. You can view our full editorial policy here.

For most working adults, employment benefits such as being able to work-from-home (WFH), flexible working hours (maybe even a 4-day work week!), annual salary increment and upskilling opportunities are some things that we value and look for in a job.

However, for workers who don’t have a job due to unforeseen circumstances such as retrenchments, any discussions about employment benefits may not be applicable. After all, no amount of employment benefits will be useful if they can’t even land a suitable job in the first place.

In a recent #EveryWorkerMatters conversation organised by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) that I joined, I shared with fellow attendees my view on just how much harder it is to get a job offer, when you don’t have one to start with.

The irony of the situation shouldn’t be lost on any of us. When we have a job, it’s likely easier for us to find another, possibly even better, job. This is because we have easy access to corporate events to network with other people in our industries, can attend upgrading courses initiated by our organisations, and have the chance to work on projects that add to our work experiences and improve our employability.

While these are opportunities that we may take for granted while working, they may not come by as easily for those who don’t have a job.

It’s Easier To Get Job Offers, When You Already Have An Existing Job

Ever noticed how those who are unemployed would rarely find themselves in a corporate networking event, even though these events are filled with decision makers and potential hiring managers.

Or consider how we may get job offers and unsolicited private LinkedIn messages from headhunters looking to poach us for their clients when we are not interested in switching jobs, only for these opportunities to dry up if we are unemployed and actually looking for a job.

And this brings me to the main point of this article.

Just like we don’t ignore the importance of employment benefits for workers in our company, neither should society ignore the value of how important unemployment support is for those currently without a job.

Advocating For More Support for Vulnerable PMEs

If you are working for a company, your employment benefits are naturally paid for by your employer. Beyond just paying an attractive salary, a company that values its workers should be investing their time, money, and resources to ensure their workers are well taken care of.

A taskforce, set up by NTUC and SNEF, issued a report in October 2021 highlighting nine key recommendations to help strengthen support for PMEs. As shared by NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng, it’s worth noting that since the report was published, “most of NTUC-SNEF PME Taskforce’s recommendations like the COMPASS and TAFEP legislations are already work in progress”. You can read the full report here.

Among the nine key recommendations by the taskforce included recommendations not just to improve employment support for PMEs, but also recommendations to help those who are currently unemployed.

NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay, shared that for PMEs to get unemployment support, there needs to be an “active labour market policy” in place such as actively looking for employment, getting new skills or getting career counselling.”

Should The Government Provide Unemployment Monetary Support?

One of the notable recommendations that stood out for us in the taskforce report is the suggestion that Singapore could introduce a national transitionary support framework to provide supplementary income relief and assistance to those who are involuntarily unemployed, supplemented by the Labour Market Policy.

From the taskforce point of view, this is vital as the downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that PMEs are no less vulnerable to retrenchments, especially for older workers.

During this difficult period of involuntarily unemployment, unemployed workers still must cope with their cost of living, need time to find new jobs and possibly take up courses to retool themselves, and may need to take a pay cut if they join a new sector. The taskforce believes that some form of basic support can help PMEs during this challenging transitory period.

To be clear, the taskforce isn’t recommending welfare payments to be given to all Singaporeans who are not working. Rather, this income support should be temporary and meant for workers who are involuntarily unemployed and transiting between jobs.

Unemployment support can also provide some breathing space for PMEs to retrain and look for suitable employment and this is an area that NTUC is committed to supporting workers in, and will continue to advocate for the PMEs benefits.

According to Mr Ng, this is an area that MOM is still reviewing and he “hopes MOM would lend their strong support because PMEs told us they would very much need interim assistance should they lose their jobs.”

This too, has been acknowledged by Manpower Minister Tan See Leng who affirmed that the government has heard NTUC’s calls for unemployment support for workers and is currently looking at how it can better support those who are displaced.

Beyond Just Financial Support For Workers Who Are Unemployed

There is a saying “give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

People often mistake this quote as having to choose one option over the other. However, I think it makes more sense that we should be doing both, and not just one without the other.

A man who is hungry may not be able to fully appreciate the value of knowing how to fish as he has an immediate need to feed his family first. Thus, the need to feed him (i.e. temporary unemployment benefit) is important. What is equally important is equipping our unemployed workers with the skills to re-enter the workforce (i.e. teach them how to fish).

This is where we need to help unemployed workers to continue having access to the right resources that employed workers have. These support areas may include career coaching where career coaches can help guide and link up workers to the right employment opportunities, training support for them to upgrade and upskill themselves such as the NTUC Education and Training Fund (NETF) that provides subsidies of $250 – $500 a year, and events such as job fairs that allow job seekers to network with potential employers.

#EveryWorkerMatters, Even For Workers Who Are In Between Jobs

In Singapore, our most important commodity is without question, our people. Even as we focus on topics that concern workers from all walks of life, we must remember to include those who are currently looking for a job, and to find tangible ways to support them, whether its monetary support to help them tide over a difficult period, and/or career planning opportunities that allow them to connect to the right jobs.

As part of the NTUC’s #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations, DollarsAndSense would love to encourage all workers to contribute their views on what they want for a better future of work in Singapore.

Whether you are a worker who is happy and comfortable in your current job, thinking about a job or career switch or currently looking for a job, we welcome you to share your thoughts in the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations. You can find out more about this on the NTUC #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations website.

Read Also: 4 Important Decisions That Will Impact Your Retirement Nest Egg In Singapore

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash