27% of $170m WorkPro funds committed so far

Just over a quarter, or 27 per cent, of the $170 million meant to help firms keep groups such as older workers and mothers in employment has been committed so far.

Of this, only $7 million had been disbursed by the end of last year, more than halfway through the three-year timeframe for the WorkPro scheme.

"Many companies are still in the midst of implementing their projects," Senior Minister of State for Manpower Amy Khor said in Parliament yesterday.

She was responding to a question from Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam who wanted more details on how widely the fund is being used.

The WorkPro scheme, launched in April 2013, consolidated three earlier programmes: Work-Life Works! Fund, Flexi-Works! and Advantage!

As of December, more than 1,500 companies had tapped the funds, nearly nine in 10 of which are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This will benefit 58,000 workers, said Dr Khor.

A total of $28 million, which makes up the bulk of the $43.2 million committed to companies so far, has been put into the Age Management Grant to support programmes such as re-employment and making jobs more suitable for older workers.

Another $13.2 million has been committed for flexible work arrangements and around $2 million for job and process redesign projects.

The scheme was enhanced last July to make it easier for companies to apply for funding for implementing flexi-work arrangements.

But the proportion of funds that has been used is still low, Mr Giam noted.

He asked: "Given that there are over 180,000 businesses in Singapore... is the Government satisfied with the take-up rate of WorkPro so far?"

Dr Khor singled out the take-up rate of the Age Management Grant as "very encouraging". The take-up rate of the Job Redesign Grant is still lagging because many companies, particularly SMEs, do not have the know-how to improve their jobs and processes, she explained.

Since reducing the requirements for documents to be submitted under the Work-Life Grant, however, the number of employers which applied went up significantly in the last two quarters of last year.

While trying to make WorkPro more accessible to companies, "we also need to be mindful that we need to balance this outcome with good governance for the funds", said Dr Khor.

This article was first published on February 13, 2015.
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