Ex-offenders help ease labour crunch

Ex-offenders help ease labour crunch
Former inmate Abu Bakar (centre) with supervisor and pastry chef Mr Eng and Marina Mandarin hotel director of marketing communications Patricia Yong. He had zero experience when he started work at the hotel as a cook, but was willing to seek help and has since received a 20 per cent pay rise. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

As the manpower crunch bites, one group is reaping the benefits - former prison inmates.

Bosses are increasingly turning to them as a way of coping with the shortage of workers.

About 3,800 employers are now listed on the database of the Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (Score).

Last year, there were just 3,400, while the figure for 2011 was 2,800.

Former offenders usually command relatively low starting salaries - from $1,300 a month for a cook or warehouse assistant.

This makes hiring them a good way for companies to take on more Singaporeans, who may normally be too expensive to hire. And it saves firms from having to recruit foreign workers, which has been made more difficult by a slew of policy changes introduced throughout the year.

On Tuesday's figures were revealed at Score's annual Appreciation Awards at the National Community Leadership Institute.

Sixty-five people and organisations were recognised for helping former offenders reintegrate into society via the workplace.

Every year, Score trains about 5,000 inmates and matches 2,000 workers with employers.

Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan Jin, who was guest of honour at the event, said it was encouraging to see so many companies stepping forward to provide former offenders with job opportunities.

Some make a special effort to help them reintegrate smoothly into society, providing structured orientation programmes and mentorship schemes.

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