C.24. We will place additional emphasis on our older, low-wage workers, by providing them the needed support to enhance their skills and continue to be valued in the workplace.
C.25. Currently, we have the Workfare Income Supplement, or WIS, to encourage older low-wage workers to stay in the workforce. We will undertake two further enhancements to help this group, following the recommendations of the ESC.
Introduction of Workfare Training Scheme (WTS)
C.26. We will give further incentive for employers and low-wage workers to commit to training. We will introduce a 3-year Workfare Training Scheme or WTS to complement the WIS. It will be aimed at helping older workers, but will also be open to younger WIS recipients (aged 35 years and above). The WTS will help them overcome barriers to training and capitalise on opportunities to advance through the CET system. The WTS will firstly provide their employers with 90% to 95% of funding for absentee payroll and course fee outlays. Secondly, to recognise the efforts of the workers who go for this skills upgrading, we will provide them with cash grants when they complete their training. The grants will be capped at $400 per year. WTS will also include a structured training programme for those with very low skills, including those who may be out of a job.
Enhancement of Workfare Income Supplement (WIS)
C.27. Next, we will enhance the WIS itself. Starting from 2010, maximum payouts for the WIS will be increased by between $150 and $400, with more going to older workers to encourage them to remain in the workforce. For example, a 60-year-old worker will get an annual WIS payment of up to $2,800, an increase of $400, up from $2,400 currently. We have also decided to extend WIS to workers earning up to $1,700 a month up from the current limit of $1,500. This will ensure that as low-wage workers upgrade their skills and begin to earn more, their WIS benefits do not decrease too quickly.
: On average, workers currently receiving a full years worth of WIS will see an additional $208 in annual WIS payouts.
C.28. The enhanced WIS will cost an additional $100 million annually and will benefit about 400,000 low-wage workers.
C.29. Further details of the enhancements to Workfare (WIS and WTS) will be announced by the Minister for Manpower in his Committee of Supply speech.