Posted on 16 April 2020
One of the highlights of the Resilience and Solidarity Budgets announced by Deputy Prime Minister Heng were the measures to support Self-Employed Persons (SEPs), a group that had been left out in the previous Budget allocations. (For a full summary of the Resilience Budget measures, click here. For the Solidarity Budget summary, click here.)
“The second group of individuals whom we seek to support is self-employed persons,” said Minister Heng during his speech. “Over the last few weeks, I received feedback from the Labour Movement and many self-employed persons calling for stronger support for the self-employed, who have less income security, and whose livelihoods may be worse affected during this period of economic uncertainty.
“This group has been harder to reach, as they work in diverse industries, many occupations, with varying working arrangements. They include taxi and private hire car drivers, real estate agents, media and art freelancers, and sports coaches.”
Acknowledging their importance as vital members of our workforce, Minister Heng announced two measures targeted at SEPs:
- Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS), wherein eligible self-employed persons will receive $1,000 a month for nine months, provided they meet certain conditions.
- An extension of the Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme to December 2020, and enhancement of the hourly training allowance from $7.50 to $10, with effect from 1 May 2020. Also, trainees will be able to tap on SkillsFuture Credit to further offset the course fees.
SIRS is estimated to cost $1.2 billion in total, and benefit around 100,000 SEPs; while S$48 million will go into extending the Self-Employed Person Training Support Scheme. They will receive three cash payments of $3,000 each in end-May, July and October 2020. This makes them some of the most sweeping and extensive support measures for SEPs around the world, in proportion to population size and affected workers.
In the United States, the federal government is poised to extend unemployment insurance payments to gig economy workers for up to 39 weeks, and top them up by an extra $600 a week, as part of a $2 trillion economic stimulus package.
The UK government on Thursday unveiled what finance minister Rishi Sunak described as "one of the most generous" support programs anywhere in the world for Britain's 5 million self-employed workers. The grants will cover 80% of their average monthly profits from the past 3 months, up to a value of £2,500. 15% of Britain's workforce are self-employed and the scheme is estimated to cost £10 billion.
In France, small businesses and freelancers who make less than €60,000 ($66,000) a year can apply for €1,500 ($1,650) in aid if they are forced to close or if their revenue falls by more than 70% this month compared with March 2019.
As Minister Heng concluded, “I am confident that together, we will ride through this storm, and emerge even stronger.”
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