Socso CEO explains how Penjana aids employers, employees

QUESTION: The Wage Subsidy Programme (WSP) was announced in March as part of the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Stimulus Package to promote employee retention and reduce layoffs. How many applications have been approved so far? What is the total payment disbursed and the number of workers involved?

Answer: Up to June 10, we have received applications from 310,729 employers involving 2.52 million workers. Of the total number of applications, 295,269 were approved, involving 2.31 million workers with total payment of RM4.08 billion.

Q: How far has Prihatin succeeded in assisting the target group from Socso?

A: Since the launch of applications on April 9 (which ran for two months), the WSP, which was introduced under Prihatin, has benefited 2.3 million employees.

We hope their employers will be able to stabilise their businesses during the next six months.

Q: The government last month announced the extension of WSP under the short-term Economic Recovery Plan, or Penjana, by another three months. Do you think the additional time frame is enough for companies to stabilise their operations?

A: The WSP is set at RM600 per month per employee, for up to 200 workers per company and is expected to cover about 2.7 million workers with an allocation of RM5 billion.

Given that there has been an extension for another three months, we believe businesses have sufficient time to stabilise their operations and restructure or restart their business.

Besides the WSP, there are other initiatives under Penjana that are aimed at assisting or propelling businesses and economic sectors as announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin. These initiatives will work hand in hand to support companies in overcoming the challenges in the current crisis, survive the impending recession and come out of it more stable or stronger.

Never in the history of the country has the government introduced wage incentives during an economic downturn. This would be the first time it is being done.

Q: Do you think there is a need for another extension after the three months, given that the impact from the Covid-19 pandemic might extend to next year?

A: Malaysia has managed to achieve single-digit cases and managed to contain the spread of Covid-19 well. With proper standard operating procedures and controls in place, we believe that the economic situation will be well managed.

The government will continue to monitor the situation in the country, particularly the welfare of employers and employees from various angles and parameters. For us at Sosco, we are prepared to assist the government in implementing any measures to support employers and employees, including the self-employed.

Q: On the Employment Retention Programme (ERP), how many applications have been approved so far, allocations disbursed and what is the number of workers involved?

A: Up to June, we have received applications from 37,566 employers involving 337,569 workers. Of the total number of applications, 21,010 were approved, involving 214,162 workers with a total payment of RM128.50 million.

Q: Is the programme still ongoing?

A: When the country transitioned into the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) period, the government saw business operations restarting and more workers returning to work, which is reflected in the declining trend of ERP applications.

The number of applications now is trickling to 387 for the week, compared with 14,803 in the third week of April, during the peak of MCO.

Therefore, the government will consolidate the ERP until June 15, as announced in the eighth Laksana report.

Please be informed that all ERP applications submitted before June 15 will be processed accordingly.

Moving forward, all employers are advised to apply for the WSP, which is still open for applications until the closing date on Sept 30.

As announced by the prime minister on June 5, employers issuing unpaid leave are now applicable to WSP, subjected to employers disbursing the assistance directly to their workers (only applicable for tourism sector and businesses which are prohibited from operating during the MCO).

To phase out the ERP and encourage businesses to continue economic activities, the wage subsidy is also extended for an additional three months.

Q: It was announced that under Penjana, the Socso job portal would be upgraded. Can you elaborate more on this? Is this open only to Socso contributors?

A: The National Employment Services job portal MyFutureJobs is open to all job seekers and not only to Employment Insurance System (EIS) contributors. The portal, previously known as EISJobs, is open to job seekers comprising school leavers, fresh graduates, retrenched workers, underrepresented groups such as persons with disabilities and seniors.

Q: What makes the portal different from other job seekers’ portals and why should those seeking jobs visit the portal?

A: Socso’s MyFutureJobs portal is the first of its kind in Malaysia, designed based on the framework of the Public Employment Services as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

We provide Public Employment Services according to OECD standards that include placement, counselling and vocational guidance; job search courses and related forms of intensified counselling for people with difficulties finding employment; support geographic mobility and similar costs in connection with job search and placement; unemployment benefit; and active labour market.

Driven by skills and competencies of the European Classification of Occupations that has been localised to the Malaysian context as well as powered by artificial intelligence, the MyFutureJobs portal allows for greater matching accuracy for both job seekers and employers.

The portal is also intertwined with case management functionalities that enable Socso career counsellors to provide individual support for job seekers requiring employment support.

Most importantly, the portal has the capability to provide real-time labour market information that can assist the government, including ministries, academicians and researchers in implementing policies based on accurate supply and demand data.

We will also be working closely with private portal jobs to complement what we are doing.

Q: How about those who have limited access to the Internet, especially those in the rural areas?

A: Socso has collaborated with Pusat Internet Desa, under the auspices of the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, to extend its services to rural and remote areas.

Socso has provided training to trainees at various Pusat Internet Desa throughout the country, including in Kuala Kurau and Tanjung Malim in Perak; Bukit Goh and Sungai Koyan in Pahang, Kuala Besut in Terengganu; Song in Sarawak and Kota Marudu in Sabah to use the MyFutureJobs portal to provide assistance to job seekers seeking employment assistance.

This is part of our efforts to expand the outreach and access of our employment services to Malaysians.

Q: How can we encourage employers to actively hire amid Covid-19 as many companies are either downsizing or closing their businesses?

A: Three components within the Hiring Incentive Programme, which involves a RM1.5 billion allocation, are expected to address this concern. To encourage hiring, employers are provided with financial incentives for six months to help them pay the salary of the job seekers.

Should they hire apprentices, namely school leavers and fresh graduates, the employers will get assistance of RM600 per employee, RM800 per employee for hiring those below 40 years old and RM1,000 per employee for hiring those 40 years old and above or persons with disabilities.

This incentive is an initiative to stimulate job creation to help companies that are recovering post-Covid-19 to restructure, reorganise and start looking into growing their companies.

It was reported that the number of jobless people has ballooned to 610,000 up to March.

This support is aimed at helping employers use this incentive to create jobs and hire unemployed individuals.

To help employees perform at their jobs well, training is also provided, if reskilling or cross-skilling is required.

Q: The government will provide a matching grant of up RM50 million for gig economy platforms that contribute towards Socso’s Employment Injury Scheme and the Employees Provident Fund’s i-Saraan contribution. How does it work for Socso?

A: This programme adopts Plan 2 of Sosco’s Self-Employment Security Social Scheme (SESSS) with an annual contribution of payment of RM232.80 for each gig worker.

The matching grant will be disbursed at a 70:30 ratio or approximately RM162.96 per gig worker for employment injury coverage under SESSS.

With this announcement, platform owners need to fork out only the remaining 30 per cent or RM69.84 for the welfare of each gig worker.

If you look into the total number of those doing gig economy, there are more than 400,000 gig economy workers registered with the Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation. However, of the total, only seven per cent registered with Socso for the scheme.

We have many awareness campaigns, but for many of them it is a burden to get protection under the scheme. They have yet to see the importance of a safety net, not only for them but also for their families should anything happen to them.

Although the allocation would cover at least 30,000 gig economy workers, for us, we have no limit and if all of them want to register for the scheme, by all means.

We will continue with engagements with gig platform providers and gig workers to enhance their awareness.

Q: With the new norm, many of us were ordered to or preferred to work from home. How does Socso’s Employment Injury Scheme work for those working from home?

A: To sustain the new normal of work from home, Socso will provide coverage for workers involved in accidents while working at home.

With the number of workers preferring to stay and work from home, we have extended coverage for workers involved in accidents while working at home under the scheme.