Table 10

Snapshot of social and economic support measures implemented in six Asian countries

IndonesiaSingaporeSouth KoreaThailandThe PhilippinesVietnam
Support packages of general populationUnemployment benefits programme was introduced, this entail financial subsidies and training for those looking for new job or just lost their employment.As the economy was hit by the pandemic, the SGUnited Skills Programme which aimed to provide job and traineeship opportunities to jobseekers was extended to March 2022 due to economic uncertainty. People who were quarantined were also provided with SGD 100 allowance during the peak of the Delta variant incursion in order to curb the spikes in September 2021 but this was removed subsequently.Premiums for national insurance schemes were deferred while all COVID-19 treatments and tests were covered for South Korean nationals. In early 2020, the government issued Emergency Relief Disaster Payment to all households except those in higher income brackets.A 6-month grace period was awarded to Social Health Insurance members whose employment was terminated or voluntarily resigned during the pandemic. After that, they were covered under the Universal Coverage Scheme. Utility bills were also subsidised for 4 months and e-vouchers were issued for a host of uses such as food and general goods.A four-pillar socioeconomic strategy against COVID-19, which addresses the needs from all sectors of the population was implemented. For the general population, packages such as ringfencing US$23 million in Social Security System
unemployment benefits and U$600 million for the Department of Agriculture programmes to ensure food security and agri-fishery support were implemented.
The government has issued various policies to support workers in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as reduction of land rent, electricity bills, income tax, social insurance premium and a no of other fees and charges.
Besides, 136 000 tonnes of rice from the national reserve was also issued to 29 provinces severely affected by the public health restrictions at the end of 2021, as measures persist due to the Omicron incursion.
Support packages for businessesTax incentives were given to selected businesses that supported the pandemic response such as companies producing medical products. Employees earning below a certain wage in these selected companies will be tax exempted.Singapore Rediscover Vouchers (SRVs) were issued to all Singapore citizens aged 18 years and above to promote spending on local attractions to give local business demand for their services. The SRVs had its expiry date extended by 3 months in light of the pandemic’s persistence. The Job Support Scheme (JSS) was implemented in 2020 to support employers in retaining local employees. JSS payouts were intended to offset local employee wages to protect jobs. Since its enactment, the JSS has been extended multiple times till the end of 2021 due to continued fiscal uncertainty.Self-employed and freelancers were provided with a job search promotion subsidy under the Employment Success Package and further monthly subsidy since April 2020. Business Closure Subsidies was offered to businesses in ‘hot zones’ to cushion the cost of closure. Remuneration for businesses continued into 2022 as strict public health measures persisted in the face of new variant incursions.In 2020, a shopping subsidy package was disbursed to stimulate spending on goods and services to boost local demand for businesses. Soft loans were issued for small and medium enterprises in the tourism sector, and this was extended in 2021 due to the sustained slump in the tourism sector and overall economy due to border closures.Support was provided to stakeholders in the food value chain such as the US$10 million stimulus package for the aquaculture sector. As the economy further weakened in 2021 due to sustained public health measures, the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act, or CREATE, reduced the income tax rate to 25% for big companies and 20% for smaller enterprises.The government has issued three financial support packages, including US%2.6 billion in 2020 and US$1.1 billion in 2021 from government subsidy for employees, employers, and vulnerable people affected by the COVID-19 and US$1.3 billion from Unemployment Insurance Fund for workers unemployed due to COVID-19.
Besides, reduction of 30% of corporate income tax in 2021 and employers and employees are suspended or need to only pay reduced premiums to the pension and survivorship fund for 6 months as businesses facing difficulties due to prolonged public health restrictions.
Support packages for vulnerable groupsExisting direct cash transfer programme such as Programme Keluarga Harapan catering to low-income households was expanded to support COVID-19 management since April 2020 and it had continued to be in place, but the quantum lowered in mid-2021 as the public health measures persisted in the face of a slow vaccination drives and high infection rates.The Courage Fund provides financial support to low-income families whose member undergoes mandatory leave of absence/ stay home notice or quarantine order which impacts their livelihood. The COVID-19 Recovery Grant provides temporary financial support to workers in lower-income to middle-income households who are presently experiencing involuntary job loss, involuntary no-pay leave or income loss due to the economic impact of COVID-19. This was rolled out in January 2021 but has been extended due to uncertain job markets. Migrant workers need not pay for COVID-19 testing and treatment.A proportion of all supplementary budgets approved during the pandemic was reserved for the vulnerable. This included emergency income supports and vouchers to the low-income brackets as infections remained high with the hospital system strained due to a high no of severe cases.A cash transfer was offered for workers in the informal economy in the first few months of the pandemic. The government also provided eligible migrant workers with a one-off payment in mid-2020. COVID-19 testing, and treatment are also covered for migrant workers.The Department of Social Welfare and Development received around Php 200 billion under Bayanihan 1 Act and US$117 million under the Bayanihan 2 Act for the implementation of social amelioration programmes. Households in areas under the most severe community quarantine level were entitled to receive a sum between US$ 100–US$150. Emergency subsidies were offered to recently returned overseas Filipino workers and unemployment or involuntary separation assistance for displaced workers or employees. Community pantries had also sprouted from a grassroots initiative that offers food items to the needy in the midst of extended lockdowns and a growing food security challenge.Low-income households and workers whose employment was suspended received roughly US$45 per month for 3 months in 2020.
Besides, pregnant women and people raising children under 6 years old received food support.