Over the last decade or so when Singapore experienced the so-called “golden period” described by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, Singaporean workers have not seen their conditions improve.
In fact statistics show that wages for the labour force, especially those in the lower income levels, have diminished. Between 1998 and 2003, the average household monthly income of the poorest 20 percent of the population decreased by nearly 15 percent while the richest quintile increased by 11.7 percent.
In that same period, while the average wage dropped for the poorest 40 percent of households, their expenditure continued to outstrip their income.
These have contributed significantly to the widening income disparity in Singapore. Our Gini coefficient, an indicator of income inequality, resembles those of Third World countries.
Part of the problem is that the PAP Government continues to use cheap foreign labour to suppress wages in a bid to show that our economy is still making money.
There are, of course, a few ways that an economy can grow. One is that our workforce is innovative and intelligent, producing goods and services. The other is that wage levels are ruthlessly suppressed to give the illusion of healthy profit margins.
Needless to say, the second mode of economic “growth” is not viable nor sustainable. This is clearly demonstrated in surveys that show that among the various Asian societies, Singaporeans are most likely to have suffered depression, stress, and fatigue.
But even before our workers can share in the largesse of the boom years, they are now reeling from the devastating effects of the current global economic crisis.
While the going was good, workers did not share in the progress. Now that things have turned sour, workers are expected to bear the brunt by getting retrenched or having to suffer further wage cuts. Singaporean workers are in a lose-lose arrangement.
On this occasion of International Workers’ Day, the Singapore Democrats repeat our call for the Government to cease its exploitation of our workers and to return to them the rights to freely organise themselves.
The National Trades Union Congress is a relic that serves neither the purpose of a labour union nor the interests of the workers. It is merely a tool of the PAP to continue the subjugation of workers and to buttress the power of the ruling party.
The Singapore Democrats repeat our call for a democratic and free labour union where workers are empowered and be free of economic enslavement. In doing so we will cultivate an economy that can compete on the world stage and not be at the constant mercy of an export-oriented economic model.
To urgently address some of the immediate problems faced by our workers, we repeat our calls:
- for a Singaporeans First Policy in which foreign workers will be retrenched first and Singaporeans laid off only as a last resort. In addition such a policy will require the Government and employers to employ foreigners only if locals cannot be found for the job. This will ensure that only qualified foreigners will be allowed into Singapore.
- to introduce Minimum Wage to ensure that employees be paid fair wages for their work commensurate with the cost of living.
- for Retrenchment Entitlements where the State pays all retrenched workers their salary for a limited period if and when they are retrenched. Such a scheme will provide workers a cushion when they are retrenched.
For more details of the above policies, please click here.