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SCCCI calls on government to help businesses with wages

THE Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce & Industry (SCCCI) is calling on the government to help ease businesses' wage costs after its latest survey found that wages remain the biggest driver of rising business costs. 

Among other recommendations detailed in its annual business survey report on Tuesday, SCCCI suggested that the government support wage costs by raising the 10 per cent funding support quantum of the Wage Credit Scheme in 2020, and extending the scheme beyond 2020.

Under the Wage Credit Scheme, the government co-funds 20 per cent of qualifying wage increases given last year and in 2017, through payouts. About 70 per cent of the payouts go to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). 

This co-funding ratio will fall to 15 per cent for 2019 and 10 per cent for 2020.

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Intended to help firms cope with rising wage costs, the Wage Credit Scheme co-funds wage increases for Singaporeans up to a gross monthly wage of S$4,000. 

In addition, the SCCCI recommended that the existing foreign worker levy rates be maintained. Those rates are staying the same across all sectors for now following this year's Budget. 

These recommendations come as rising business costs, driven primarily by wage and rental expenses, continue to be Singapore firms' biggest challenge this year, according to the SCCCI's survey of nearly 1,000 businesses. Of those, about 95 per cent were SMEs. 

The survey also found that the Wage Credit Scheme is one of the three most popular government schemes among companies, after the Enterprise Development Grant and Productivity Solutions Grant, although awareness of such schemes has apparently remained low. 

When it came to manpower challenges, more respondents this year also said they struggle with attracting and retaining local staff, and the tightening of foreign worker quotas.