David Beckhams of Singapore

The Rhetoric

“Our workers are the “David Beckhams” of this competition. They must score the goals or set up the moves to get the goals. They had done it before … it is time for us to go to the next level and we can do this with a new mindset. First, the belief in lifetime employment is a thing of the past.”
Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng at the convention of the National Transport Workers’ Union, July 3, 2002

The Reality

If Singaporean workers are really the David Beckhams of our industries, then why are they paid Third World wages? Of 59 countries surveyed, the Global Competitiveness Report 1999 revealed that the median wage of an office cleaner or driver, adjusted for productivity, “is among the lowest in 59 countries.”

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