SINGAPORE: Nearly three in 10 persons with disabilities (PWDs) who are of working age are employed, Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad told Parliament on Monday (Sep 2).
The resident employment rate was 28.6 per cent among PWDs in the working ages of 15 to 64, Mr Zaqy said as part of his response to a Parliamentary question by Member of Parliament Chong Kee Hiong regarding employment rates of the disabled.
Another 4.2 per cent of PWDs in this age range were without a job and actively looking for one, translating to a resident unemployment rate of 12.9 per cent.
"The remaining two-thirds of PWDs in this age group were outside the labour force, with most of them citing poor health or disability as the main reason," added Mr Zaqy.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has started collecting data on the employment outcomes of PWDs through the annual Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, and data is available from 2018 onwards.
Mr Chong also asked for a breakdown of employment rates by age bands.
In response, Mr Zaqy said that the resident employment rate for PWDs aged 15 to 39 years old was 27.6 per cent. For those aged between 40 and 49 years old, the resident employment rate was 37.8 per cent.
That rate was 26.1 per cent of PWDs aged between 50 and 64 years old, and 5.9 per cent for those aged 65 and above.
The sectors employing the most resident PWDs are community, social and personal services, food services, administrative and support services and manufacturing, which together account for more than half of PWD employment.
INACCURATE FIGURES FROM STRAITS TIMES
In a supplementary question, Mr Chong called for an explanation for the figures published by newspaper The Straits Times (ST) in February, which reported that "just 5 in 100 people here disabilities have jobs”.
Mr Zaqy replied that the figures cited are "erroneous".
"The incorrect data was derived by ST using different sources of publicly available data," the minister said.
The data from the Comprehensive Labour Force Survey for PWDs was not ready, MOM later said, adding that ST had collated data from different sources.
"For the total number of PWDs in the population, ST applied the estimated prevalence rate from an NCSS survey of 2,000 persons," Mr Zaqy added.
"This is different from what we have from the Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, which covers about 100,000 persons from 33,000 households so it's a more accurate view."
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SCHEMES TO HELP COMPANIES HIRE PWDS
Member of Parliament Intan Azura Mokhtar also raised another question on the effectiveness of government schemes in helping companies or employers hire PWDs.
She cited the Special Employment Credit (SEC), Open Door Programme (ODP) and Workfare.
In response, Mr Zaqy said that MOM in 2012 extended SEC to employers that hire Singaporeans with disabilities of all ages earning up to S$4,000 a month.
SEC provides an automatic wage offset of up to 16 per cent of the employee’s monthly income for PWDs aged below 67, and up to 22 per cent for PWDs aged 67 and over.
"Last year, more than 5,700 employers hiring over 8,600 Singaporeans with disabilities benefited from SEC," added the minister.
"This number has increased from 2012, when SEC was paid to around 3,200 employers hiring about 5,000 Singaporeans with disabilities."
Employers and PwDs can tap on the employment support services and programmes under the Adapt and Grow initiative, and this includes the ODP and Career Trial, Mr Zaqy said.
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The ODP Training Grant provides a subsidy of up to 90 per cent of course fees to support the training of PWDs and their co-workers. The ODP Job Redesign Grant provides employers with funding of up to 90 per cent of the job redesign costs, capped at S$20,000 per employee with disability, to help integrate PWDs at the workplace.
"Some employers and PwDs may have reservations about job fit and the suitability of the work environment," said Mr Zaqy.
"To address these concerns, Career Trial provides an opportunity for jobseekers and employers to try out each other and assess job fit through a trial. During the trial, which can be up to three months, jobseekers receive a training allowance from the Government."
He stated that close to 780 companies have hired more than 2,000 PWDs with support from the Adapt and Grow initiative, with at least 60 per cent of these PWDs remaining employed after six months.
The minister mentioned that the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) and Workfare Training Support (WTS) were extended to lower-wage PWDs of all ages in 2012 and 2017 respectively.
WIS tops up the salaries and CPF savings of lower-wage PWDs, with up to S$3,600 in cash and CPF contributions annually while WTS provides support such as course fee subsidies and training allowances.
"Last year, more than 6,400 Singaporeans with disabilities benefited from WIS, up from more than 3,500 in 2012," said Mr Zaqy.
"The number of Singaporeans with disabilities who benefited from WTS training also increased last year to about 860, up from about 640 in 2017."
In March this year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development announced the formation of a new workgroup to look at enhancing access to learning opportunities and employment pathways for PWDs.
The workgroup aims to release their recommendations early next year, Mr Zaqy said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated following corrections from the Ministry of Manpower (MOM). Mr Zaqy had said the ministry had not done the Comprehensive Labour Force Survey for PWDs so therefore ST had patched together data from different sources. MOM later clarified that the data from the survey was “not ready”.