A Budget 2019 measure to cut foreign labour in the service sector has drawn mixed reactions from Singaporeans: Survey

The Straits Times

A survey by the Government’s feedback unit Reach has found that a majority of Singaporeans are in favour of Budget 2019 measures – but one in particular has gotten mixed reactions.

The survey, based on 4,500 Singaporeans, found that six in 10 support Budget 2019 measures which ensure firms and workers remain relevant.

Respondents provided feedback across 14 different Reach platforms, including face-to-face engagements at its Listening Points and telephone surveying though its Computer-Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) poll.

According to the survey, which was released on Sunday (March 24), 84 per cent of Listening Points respondents and 71 per cent of CATI poll respondents agree that the Government’s efforts to transform industries and deepen workers’ capabilities will improve job opportunities in the new economy.

“Singaporeans whom Reach spoke to called for the continuous emphasis and support for skills upgrading, particularly for mature workers,” the study added.

The Budget 2019 measures to help SMEs increase innovation and productivity also saw a similar support level.

The survey found that 83 per cent of respondents from the face-to-face interviews support measures to aid the growth of SME innovation and productivity, such as the Enterprise Financing Scheme, SMEs Go Digital Programme and SME Co-Investment Fund III.

Also, the move to raise the maximum salary criteria for the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS), which would allow more workers to receive Workfare pay-outs, is supported by eight in 10 telephone poll respondents and the same proportion of Listening Points respondents.

But the survey said that reactions to the Government’s efforts to gradually reduce the number of foreigners in the service sector were mixed.

Around 66 per cent of interviewees from the Listening Points and 58 per cent of CATI poll respondents support the reduction of the Dependency Ratio Ceilings (DRC), Reach said. Of these, many said it is important to keep manpower sustainable in the long run, and to unlock potential employment opportunities for Singaporeans.

Supporting the Merdeka Generation Package and enhanced CHAS subsidies 

The survey also found high support for social measures to provide stronger social safety nets.

85 per cent of telephone poll respondents and 83 per cent of face-to-face interview respondents said they support the Merdeka Generation Package, which will help Singaporeans aged 60 to 69 stay active and better manage healthcare costs.

These respondents indicated that they think the enhancement of Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) subsidies will help more Singaporeans cope with healthcare expenses. At the same time, some of the participants also reiterated the need for healthcare costs to be kept affordable in the long term.

The Bicentennial Bonus – which includes CPF payments for Singaporeans with lower CPF balances, one-off Edusave and Post-Secondary Education Account (PSEA) top-ups, and personal income tax rebate – is also supported by most respondents.

76 per cent of respondents from the Listening Points and 66 per cent from the CATI poll said they support this move and view it as a good way to share budget surpluses with Singaporeans, Reach said.

When it comes to defence, more than 60 per cent from both the Listening Points and CATI poll support the allocation of about 30 per cent of the national budget for Singapore’s defence needs.

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