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Budget 2021 Highlights | 4 Must-Knows for Job Seekers

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

In his Emerging Stronger Together themed Budget 2021 address, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a slew of enhanced job support measures to continue to strengthen the workforce in the wake of the global pandemic. As the economy is slowly but surely recovering from the recession, the focus of the 2021 budget seems largely centered on the sustainable creation of jobs. In other words, we’re paving the way towards economic recovery rather than rescue.

What does this mean for you? Here’s what you can look out for if you’re on the hunt for a job during this period.

It has been well over a year since nations worldwide were crippled by the global pandemic. Since then, developed and developing countries alike have been hit with subsequent waves of infections. While Singapore has been fortunate enough to contain the spread for now, we can see considerable damage done across most sectors of the economy, particularly aviation, tourism and entertainment (we’ve just bid a temporary farewell to the most beloved Teo Heng KTV franchise... )

Last year, our country experienced its worst recession since independence. Because of the pandemic-induced recession, the government has tapped into the country’s national reserves for the first time since the 2008 global financial crisis. Not surprisingly, the most recent Budget 2021 address - themed Emerging Stronger Together - extended and enhanced the Job Growth Incentive and SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package to continue the support for the lacklustre job market.

Before we cover the 4 job support schemes that you should be well acquainted with, let’s dive a little deeper into what is a Budget, its process and the significance of this year’s Budget in response to COVID-19.

Explainer: What’s the Budget?

The Budget includes the revised revenue and expenditure projections for the current and following financial year. For the Budget every year, the government prioritises different short-term and long-term measures to support and boost the economy. In Singapore, each financial year (FY) begins on 1 April of the calendar year and ends on 31 March of the following calendar year.

The Budget process kicks off in November, where the Ministry of Finance initiates rounds of discussions with other ministries and agencies to identify national priorities. The findings and proposed plans are subsequently opened to public consultation gather a range of feedback and perspectives from different stakeholders.

This could look something like businesses, unions and individual households (stakeholders) putting forth their ideas over dialogue sessions, listening points and online channels (feedback avenues). The suggestions gathered contribute to the final design of the final Budget line-up, which has to go through approval by the Cabinet before presented to the Parliament by the Finance Minister.

Following this, the Budget Statement is debated in Parliament and the Finance Minister then delivers a Round-Up Speech that clarifies the queries raised and summarises the main gists of the Budget. Parliament then sits as the Committee of Supply to examine each ministry’s plans, before debating and voting on the supply bill. The Supply Bill is passed with the President’s assent, enacted as the Supply Act which controls the Government’s spending for the financial year.

COVID-19 response and the Budget(s) in 2020 and 2021.

2020 was a year of many firsts.

In the wake of COVID-19 disrupting global supply chains, the government rolled out five fiscal packages spread across four budgets (Fortitude Budget, Resilience Budget, Solidarity Budget, Unity Budget) to cushion the economic blow. The total projected expenditure for the expansionary Budget was estimated at S$193 billion across the four budgets, with S$93 billion allocated specifically for the pandemic response (that’s 20% of our GDP!). Of the $93 billion, $52 billion was drawn from national reserves, the first time since the 2008 global financial crisis. Also for the first time since independence, we ended the 2020 Financial Year (FY2020) with a record-high budget deficit of S$64.9 billion (13.9% of GDP). This Business Times article summarises succinctly how the government’s support measures went into helping the hardest-hit sectors, smaller firms and lower-income households.

Come 2021, the ‘Emerging Stronger Together’ themed budget has a sharper focus on helping sectors that are most affected by the economic downturn. While continued efforts to support businesses and workers through the extended Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) tapers off for FY2021, there is a targeted focus towards supporting sectors that are still struggling to recover amid the pandemic. As expected, moving away from a broad-based rescue strategy we’ve seen in 2020 pushes the economy towards recovery through the creation of sustainable and in-demand jobs.

Furthermore, the 2021 Budget also touches on long-term macro goals that focus on cementing Singapore’s position as a global business hub and a frontrunner in technology and innovation. Among other COVID-19 relief measures, we also see a portion pumped into helping businesses innovate, build capabilities and take up digital transformation to be future-ready and stay competitive.

Jobseekers Guide for Budget 2021:

The 4 Schemes to Look Out for

1. COVID-19 Recovery Grant

The COVID-19 Recovery Grant (CRG) aims to help lower- to middle-income workers and self-employed workers who have been affected by the pandemic, on top of existing COVID-19 relief measures.

The grant provides temporary financial support to Singapore Citizens and Permanent Resident workers who have been retrenched, placed on involuntary no-pay leave or have experienced salary loss of at least 50% for at least three consecutive months. CRG aims to give an additional layer of support to help these individuals as they continue to search for new employment or upskilling opportunities to improve their capabilities.

  • Up to $700 per month for 3 months for employees who have i) lost their jobs or ii) placed on involuntary no-pay leave for at least 3 consecutive months

  • Up to $500 per month for 3 months for employees who are i) facing average income loss of at least 50% for at least 3 consecutive months

Interested individuals can apply for CRG online here from 9am to 10pm daily from 18 January to 31 December 2021.

2. Extended SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package

Introduced in May 2020, SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package is a suite of efforts aimed to help 100,000 job seekers affected by the economic downturn expand their capabilities and acquire job-related skills through employment, traineeships and skills training opportunities. At the end of December 2020, nearly 76,000 individuals benefited from the package.

For clarity, the