Speech by President Halimah Yacob at the Human Capital Singapore and SG Enable Masterclass
VITAL is mentioned in the speech of Madam Halimah Yacob, President of Singapore, as one of the early adopters of the Human Capital Singapore HR Powerbank, as we partner HR Powerbank to employ more persons with disabilities for jobs in the HR domain.
Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Speaker of the Parliament of Singapore
Ms Ho Geok Choo, CEO, Human Capital Singapore
Mr Moses Lee, Chairman, SG Enable
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good evening. I am happy to join you on this joyous occasion as we celebrate the graduation of the first group of Conferred HR Administrators (CHRA). I am glad that many employers, professionals, managers, and executives have come together today to learn about the strategic competitive advantage of inclusive hiring.
Persons with disabilities are a talent pool with valuable skills and expertise. Last year, I launched the HR Powerbank initiative that supports the employment of persons with disabilities. HR Powerbank plans to train a team of more than 20 CHRAs per year and facilitate their work placements. This initiative complements the President’s Challenge Enabling Employment Pledge, which calls on organisations to adopt an inclusive mindset, create barrier-free workplace environments, and implement supportive employment policies for employees with disabilities. As at end-September 2022, we have had 224 pledgers so far. Initiatives like the HR Powerbank facilitate turning these commitments into action.
Today, we celebrate the graduation of 23 CHRAs with disabilities. I am heartened to learn that five had already been successfully placed into shared services roles at the HR Powerbank even before graduation. In addition, five more individuals are pending confirmation for employment in outsourced services. HR Powerbank and its partners will continue to support the remaining CHRAs and partner them toward employment. Partners like SG Enable also come in to support the training and employment of the CHRAs, before they are hired by the various companies.
It is encouraging that several organisations from the people, private and public sectors have already stepped forward to support the HR Powerbank, and by extension, inclusive hiring practices. For example, VITAL, the centralised shared service provider of HR and administrative services in the public sector, has tapped on CHRAs to meet the requirements from the scaling up of its shared services. Besides VITAL, there are 21 other early adopters who will be recognised today.
The Enabling Masterplan (EMP) 2030 has set out an aspirational target to raise the employment rate of persons with disabilities to 40%, up from the current 30%. To achieve this, I urge everyone to contribute our part. For example, more organisations could step forward to be early adopters of the HR Powerbank, to support inclusive hiring. Together, we can achieve our shared vision of a fair and inclusive society, where persons with disabilities are enabled to pursue their aspirations, achieve their fullest potential, and participate as integral and contributing members of society.
The Government will also continue to play a key role to support the employment of persons with disabilities.
First, employers of persons with disabilities are provided wage offsets of up to 30% through the Enabling Employment Credit for each Singaporean employee with disability earning below $4,000 per month. Employers who expand local hiring may also be eligible for wage support under the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI). The JGI provides salary support of up to 20% for the first $6,000 of wages for local new hires for the first six months. The JGI has been extended to March 2023. I encourage employers to use these programmes to continue hiring more local persons with disabilities.
In addition, the government defrays up to 90% of the costs of workplace modifications and equipment to help companies accommodate the unique needs of persons with disabilities under the Open Door Programme. The programme also provides job placement and job support services to persons with disabilities.
SG Enable has also introduced three new programmes under the National Jobs Council to provide customised employment, traineeships and skills upgrading opportunities to persons with disabilities amid the pandemic in 2021. These programmes continue to run today.
Following the release of the EMP2030 report, a multi-stakeholder Taskforce has been formed to look at enhancing employment support and opportunities for persons with disabilities. The Taskforce will look at several areas including increasing the number of inclusive employers, the designing of micro-jobs, and further enhancing the capabilities of job coaches to improve employment outcomes for persons with disabilities. The Taskforce has representatives across the , private and public sectors, with different expertise to co-create solutions.
Everyone, including employers, has a part to play in our ongoing efforts to build a more inclusive society. Employers can provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to society through employment and in turn, benefit from access to a new talent pool. Organisations also benefit when there is diversity and inclusivity at the workplace. I am confident that the employers joining us today will set an example for others and encourage others to follow your lead.
The Government recently launched the Forward Singapore exercise, to discuss how we, as a society, can work together to refresh our social compact and chart our new way forward. If we work in close partnership with one another, we can collectively make a difference to the lives of persons with disabilities in Singapore. I encourage everyone to participate in the conversations.
We can do a lot more. For a start, we need to open opportunities in more sectors of the economy for the employment of persons with disabilities. The traditional sectors where they are typically employed are in F&B, hotel, or kitchens. Employers are slowly opening, and I have met those in the healthcare sector, library service and banks employing persons with disabilities. But much more can be done.
The fact is that persons with disabilities are not homogenous and have a wide spectrum of skills. Some have tertiary qualifications and are capable of higher-level jobs in the different sectors of our economy. Many suffer from mobility issues, but their intellectual capacity is on par with any other worker capable of doing jobs requiring complex skills. What they may require would be some adjustments to the workplace to help them move about or to read the computer better. These are not costly and there are government schemes to help employers make such adjustments. There are also many assistive technologies now available in the market to help workers with disabilities perform their functions.
Persons with disabilities seeking higher education too need greater support as the infrastructure is normally not built with their needs in mind and the teaching methodology too is meant for the general population of students but not suited to someone with hearing loss, visual impairment, or mobility issues. Building requirements for institutions of higher learning should provide for such needs so that persons with disabilities will not face difficulty accessing higher education which is important for them to secure better jobs.
These are some feedbacks that I have received in my engagement with persons with disabilities. It should be part of a larger conversation that we need to have under Forward Singapore on how to build a Social Compact that addresses the needs and challenges facing persons with disabilities whether in education, employment or in accessing community facilities especially for adults with severe disabilities who are not able to work. In this conversation, we should not forget about their caregivers who need a lot of support too especially for those taking care of severely disabled loved ones. In essence, the question is what kind of society we want to build where persons of all abilities can grow and live meaningful and fulfilling lives.
In closing, a big thank you to speakers of the panel discussion for providing insights on the best practices and strategic advantage of inclusive hiring. My congratulations again to the graduating CHRAs. I wish you all the best.
Click HERE to read the original speech from the Istana website.