I am speaking up for our working poor

James Gomez

For me the most important political challenge today is to help Singapore’s Working Poor caught in the urban poverty trap.

The different policy ideas enumerated in SDP’s alternative economic programme, It`s About You, address an important area of policy concern – the issue of Singapore’s Working Poor.

This is why I joined the SDP.


Singapore’s Working Poor are individuals and families who maintain regular and intermittent low paid employment but remain in relative poverty. Essentially, their incomes are insufficient or just meet the basic consumption expenditure needs.

As a guide let us refer to the 2010 3rd quarter household median income of $3,754 published by the Ministry of Manpower. We know many households don’t generate this amount of income and, of those who do, many still struggle to meet their household consumption and expenditure.

This is due to the depressed levels of pay caused by cheap foreign labour and the high living costs associated with an urban environment like Singapore.

Many countries have applied Minimum Wage to combat poverty traps in their systems and, from time to time, they adjust the Minimum Wage levels to match the rise in inflation.

The SDP’s and my policy answer is Minimum Wage.  Combined with the other recommendations in SDP’s economic programme, such as the Singaporeans First Policy, such a measure will help Singapore structure a more equitable and, therefore, sustainable economy.

The combination of a Minimum Wage structure with the Singaporeans First Policy will ensure that Singaporeans are employed first. It will also prevent the local economy from being artificially and overly reliant on cheap foreign labour.

The life of lowly paid foreign workers in Singapore is not easy.

The PAP Government and foreign businesses exploit them by paying them low wages. Foreign workers live in difficult circumstances in high-cost Singapore and among a population which is uneasy with their large numbers.

Unfortunately, the PAP neither believes in Minimum Wage nor the prevention of exploitation of low-wage foreign workers. It is joined by foreign business and their high-income earning foreigners who live and play in Singapore.

Collectively, the PAP and foreign business prefer that the current depressed wages be maintained without any form of fixed Minimum Wage. They hold this view in spite of the reality that such low wages are insufficient for many in Singapore.

The PAP and the high-salaried foreigners and businesses do not think Minimum Wage is the way to go for our workers. Instead they spend time arguing about maximum wage levels for themselves and ask our poorly paid workers to work harder and faster.

This is an unacceptable position. Come this general elections, we need to put a stop to this exploitation of Singapore`s Working Poor and cheap foreign labour.

We need to send a strong signal to the PAP to stop paying themselves millions of dollars from your tax payments and for the elite foreigner workers from benefitting from your low labour costs while they collectively continue to keep YOU poor.

I believe this will be one of the main areas in policy-making for Singapore in years to come and a topic of debate for the next general elections. This is why I am speaking up and standing up for Singapore’s Working Poor.

Since the PAP and foreign business will not speak up for this segment of the population, we in the SDP will.

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