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The Business Times (14 January 2004) carried a report in which NUS Associate Professor Hui Weng Tat pointed out that 103,000 new jobs need to be created in 2004 – just to keep the unemployment rate at 6 percent. To bring the rate down to 4 percent, an additional 30,000 new jobs are needed.
To give readers a perspective, the Free Trade Agreement which was recently signed between the US and Singapore heralded, with much fanfare, that 50,000 jobs would be created. In must be pointed out that this 50,000-job claim was, unlike Professor Huis study, made with little supporting evidence.
The PAP, with precious few ideas about how to take our economy forward, is depending on the FTA to generate employment. Many experts have voiced concern that the few benefits the agreement brings about will go to the elite few in Singapore and have negligible impact on the employment scene in Singapore.
Given this scenario, Singaporean workers need to be protected and assisted. How? The NUS don made some recommendations:
Apply positive discrimination in favour of residents
Tighten eligibility rules for employment pass holders
Introduce minimum wage
The first two recommendations essentially call for Singaporeans to be employed first and for employers not take in foreign workers indiscriminately. The third point is self-evident.
If these sound familiar, its because the Singapore Democrats made them our campaign platform during the last elections. In our rally speeches we emphasized on our Singaporeans First Policy, minimum wage and retrenchment entitlements for workers. In our campaign flyers, we told voters that Voting for the SDP means that you
Support the minimum wage plan to pay you fair wages for your work.
Want to be financially protected if you are retrenched.
. Support the Singaporeans First Policy to protect your jobs (where foreign workers will only be allowed to come into Singapore if no locals are available for the job)
The PAP typically rubbished SDPs ideas claiming that these policies would bankrupt the nation. Taking the cue, the local media gave scant regard to the Democrats proposals and the voters were again uninformed about the benefits and need for such policies. Of course, the PAP won the battle not through an informed decision made by the electorate but by keeping the voters ignorant about what affected them and their lives.
Now Associate Professor Huis research and findings support the SDPs claims.