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Enhance Workfare flexibility so more benefit

Currently it is given out to low-wage workers earning up to $1,700 a month

Enhance Workfare flexibility so more benefit

Mr Kamaruzaman holds two jobs, whose combined pay puts him beyond the $1,700-a-month income ceiling for Workfare. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

EARNING just $1,100 a month as a pest controller, Mr Kamaruzaman Abdul Rahman took on a second job to support his wife and sister.

It earned the 59-year-old about $800 a month.

But the two jobs put him beyond the $1,700-a-month income ceiling of the Government's Workfare Income Supplement scheme.

So, apart from not receiving Workfare, he also lost out on the special Workfare Bonus announced in this year's Budget.

The bonus is 50 per cent of the Workfare payout for work done last year, and 25 per cent of the payout for work done this year and the next.

The plight of Mr Kamaruzaman, who works 16 hours a day, was highlighted by Ms Irene Ng (Tampines GRC) yesterday when she called for the Workfare scheme to be tweaked to ensure deserving low-income workers are not left out.

She was among three MPs who wanted changes made to Workfare to enhance its flexibility and include more people.

The Workfare scheme gives up to $2,800 a year in cash and Central Provident Fund contributions to older, low-wage workers earning up to $1,700 a month.

Referring to Mr Kamaruzaman, Ms Ng said that 'because of his strong work ethic, he does not qualify for Workfare. This runs counter to one's sense of social equity.

'Some Singaporeans earning the same pay of $1,100 a month would ask for welfare handouts to help pay their bills, but other workers like Mr Kamaruzaman work two jobs to improve their lot'.

When contacted by The Straits Times, Mr Kamaruzaman, a pest controller for 40 years, said he was unhappy to be left out of Workfare benefits.

But he had no choice but to work two jobs. He said: 'I took on the second job 15 years ago to pay for my wife's medical bills and support my sister.'

His daughter, 29, and son, 28, are both married with families of their own.

Ms Ng urged the Government to consider giving the Workfare payout and bonus to people holding two low-paying jobs, but their combined basic salaries cannot exceed $2,300 a month.

'We should not penalise our older and low-skilled workers for working harder and longer hours, sometimes to the detriment of their own health and own family life. Instead, we should recognise them for making the extra effort,' she said.

Ms Ng also called for the Government to exclude overtime pay from its calculation of Workfare payouts.

Associate Professor Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim (Marine Parade GRC) called for greater flexibility in the times of training sessions, subsidised by the Workfare Training Support scheme, to make it more convenient for low-income workers to attend them.

Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Marine Parade GRC) wants the Government to raise the monthly income criteria, from $1,700 to $2,000, to accommodate inflation and higher cost of living.

He also wants bonuses to be excluded from the monthly income of these workers, to avoid exceeding the income ceiling for Workfare.

Bonuses are given 'to reward staff for their hard work' and should not lead to a 'strange result of making a worker unhappy' to receive them, he said.

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