“productivity and real wages of the bottom 20 per cent of our work force have not risen because our labour policies allow employers easy access to low wage foreign labour. In national accounting, low wage foreign labour may not be as low-cost as employers believe.” – Ngiam Tong Dow
“Singapore has lost two decades relying on low-wage, low-skilled foreign labour to drive economic growth.” - Ngiam Tong Dow
“How on earth a Labour Chief and a Minister in the PM’s Office would think that young graduates would want to enter the job market as a cleaner or security guard or a hawker’s assistant is beyond me.” – Feed Me To The Fish
“PAP rulers were so concern about ministers pay that they had to have a commission of inquiry to decide how many millions to pay the various PAP ministers….Isn’t it funny that PAP ministers paid millions by taxpayers can be justified by COI whereas the poorest paid cleaners do not deserve a decent minimum wage for survival?” - Feed Me To The Fish
[Excerpt from the blog of Diary of A Singaporean Mind] Having a union chief that believes minimum wage has no place in Singapore says a lot about what kind of system we have in Singapore. Minimum wage policy wherever it is implemented, whether in Europe long time ago or Hong Kong more recently, has always generated plenty of debate. However, you will never find a labor union chief in any other country that will speak out against paying workers a minimum decent living wage. Lim Swee Say speaking against minimum wage just shows us how lopsided and unbalanced the system is ….even more so than the absence of a minimum wage itself. Lim Swee Say, as labor chief, also urge workers to be “cheaper, better, faster” at a time when Singapore has the highest income inequality among developed countries……
Lim Swee Say recycles old arguments against minimum wage. He says it will erode competitiveness by raising business costs and cause unemployment. Labor is only one component of costs – rent, utilities, govt charges etc. You never hear Lim Swee Say urging landlords to keep rentals low or reducing CEO pay or suggesting that electricity tariffs which is 2nd highest in the world should be reduced to keep Singapore competitive – he believes in making workers “cheaper” to stay competitive as part of his CBF (Cheaper, better faster) strategy. Higher wages will actually provide businesses with incentives to automate and increase productivity which has been falling forthe past few years. [read more …]
[Askmelah’s Note: what is a government scholar and a cabinet minister doing in a trade union let alone the chief of the all unions in Singapore? No wonder the trade union leaders talk like government, behave like government and some are the government, instead of fighting for workers’ rights! What a joke for the famed harmonious tripartite (employer, union and government) relationship in Singapore. It’s time Lim Swee Say and all politicians can stop to think what they would like to be remembered for in history – someone who has a genuine heart to serve the people (like the late President Ong Teng Cheong) or one who needs to be paid handsomely to serve thier bosses rather than the workers that he should care for.]
[Updated 19 Nov 2011: The Straits Times published a special report “Low-Wage Workers” today, in it Prof Hui Weng Tat from the NUS was quoted saying: “In a situation where wages are depressed due to an inflow of foreign labour, the introduction of a minimum wage will in fact lead to a net increase of local employment.” Lim Swee Say should check his conscience and fight for his people instead of resisting the call for minimum wage as a union chief should be. The article has also included various ways (left) to help the low wage workers.]
[Updated 14 Apr 2012: This so-called “union chief” is making news again. This time he is against the fame Economist Lim Chong Yah’s radical suggestions to raise the salaries of low income workers while freezing the pay of high income workers to narrow the wage gap “too risky” (Source).
[Updated 10-10-2012] The HK gave the latest proof that minimum wage does help the lower income group without adverse effect on the economy, contrasts that to the “union chief”‘s doomsday scenario.
Professor Lim,who helmed the National Wage Council (NWC) from 1972 to 2001, had called for the wages of workers earning S$1,500 and below to be increased by 50 per cent over the next three years, and a salary freeze for those earning more than S$15,000 a month. For the middle income, he proposed pay increases between a quarter to a third of that received by the lowest-income group.
The “union chief” reasoning? he felt that a 50 per cent corresponding increase in productivity in the next three years would be difficult to achieve. If wage increases outstrip productivity gains, companies may cut jobs or move out of Singapore and there may also be structural unemployment, added the labour chief. I am curious is he fighting for the workers or for the riches as a union chief? How come he did not question if the higher income group justifying their huge pay increase over the last few years with a corresponding increase in productivities? on the other hand, everyone knew that the depressed salaries of the lower income were caused by the liberal foreigner labour policy by the Government. I do not have any more respect, if there is any little left, of this so-called “union chief”. I think the 1000+ comments on the Yahoo! page says it all. More robust rebuttal here: Breaking out from the cycle of cheap labor and low productivity.]
[Updated 28 Apr 2012: In an about-turn, the million dollar minister now had a change of heart:
He must have found his conscience I presume, or he must have gotten chastised by his own union chiefs badly for not fighting for the workers, so must sing different tune now. Nevertheless, the change for the better is always a good sign and we shall not hold it against this “union chief”.]
[Updated 17 Apr 21: “Low-wage workers here ‘underpaid': Lim Chong Yah“: former National Wages Council chairman Lim Chong Yah clarified his position yesterday: His proposal is premised on low-wage workers in Singapore being “underpaid by much more than 100 per cent of their pay when compared with their counterparts in countries with comparable national affluence like Hong Kong, Japan or Australia”. The “gross underpayment is consequent on the unlimited influx of cheap foreign labour to Singapore”. He added that his assumption that such workers are paid 100 per cent less than their productivity contribution is “an underestimation” – even if their pay increases 50 per cent over three years, they would still be paid 50 per cent at the end of the restructuring.
Askmelah’s Note: my reading of Lim Swee Say’s position when tallied with Prof Lim’s explanation is this: It is ok that our million dollars ministers are paid the highest salaries in the world but it is not ok that our low income workers are not even paid equivalent to the workers in the developed countries. What kind of union chief is this? Is he not ashamed of himself. Even a economic professor has more conscientiousness than him.
Do I worry about potential cost increase and inflation as a result of increase the pay of the poor? You bet I am, but there are many instrument in the Government’s disposal that they can use: foreign labour quota, taxes, rentals, land prices, cooperatives, admin fees, competitions, huge investment gains and dividends from reserves, overpayment of the executives, reduction in people needing handouts (just may be) etc. I am sure the Government definitely can do much better than what I have come up with to control the inflation. With pay increase, more economic active citizens will be willing to come back to the workforce, we will reduce the reliance on foreigners. Just last week, I was at the Burger King Vivocity outlet, the manager and the guy serving me are both Philippinos, these jobs used to be occupied by part timers, senior citizens and lowly educated Singaporeans. When the pay is so low and the employers have easy eaccess to foreign workers, it is no wonder that so many economically active Singaporeans are jobless or paid lowly if he/she is desparate for a job [Updated again on 30Oct2012: Askmelah was here at the same BK branch today and pleasantly surprised that the two front workers that took my order now were two local (above 50 years old) ladies who spoken decently good English, the clamp down on cheap foreign workers work instantly, kudos to MOM]. That is the real social problem that the Government has created by insisting to underpay our low wage workers. See an excellent article that articulated the history and argument along the same lines as Askmelah: Completing the wage revolution ]
[Updated Apr 14, 2012: Lim Swee Say gave a rough estimate of the size of the wage bill that would result from Prf Lim’s proposed wage hike for low wage workers – $4.56 billion. To arrive at that figure, he assumed a base wage of $1000 and a pool of 400,000 low wage beneficiaries (source: The Straits Times). Askmelah’s Note: we have much less than 2 million working Singaporeans that are employable and if 400,000 are earning $1000 or less now, it will be a shame that all the GDP growth create a large underclass. If his estimates was way off, then either the union chief did not know his stuff well or he was trying his scared tactics like all his fellow teammates by always painting a doomsday scenario.]
[Updated 22 Jun 2012: labour chief Lim Swee Say yesterday rejected the idea (of minimum wage) as he unveiled a “progressive wage” system which will be first applied to the cleaning industry. Under the new concept, the tripartite movement will work out wage targets for a group of workers, and these targets would be met when the workers undergo skills upgrading and improve their productivity.Source]
“While I welcome big supermarkets in the HDB heartland, they affect the livelihoods of the individual stallholders, many of whom are middle-aged or older Singaporeans with little or no education. Moreover, the supermarkets employ mostly younger and lower-paid foreigners.” – Priscilla Poh
[Updated 1 May 2012: And contrast this with the Malaysia’s pro-worker’s minimum wage announcement, it shows the blatant lack of political will to do good for the lowest income group here.
- Why it is worth looking at minimum wage next
- Wage shock therapy ‘too risky': Lim Swee Say
- I’m not shy of getting high pay – Lim Swee Say
- Low-wage workers here ‘underpaid': Lim Chong Yah
- Completing the wage revolution – “Globalisation and advancement of technology contributed to structural unemployment but it was the foreign labour policy that exacerbated the plights of the dislocated low-income wage earners.”
- Wage reform issue calls for public debates
- Professor Lim Chong Yah – The Devil’s Advocate – “Just like Ngiam Tong Dow who spoke out against current government FTs policy, Professor Tommy Koh also ever said that we need a minimum wage policy. That was shot down by the union chief straightaway.”
- Wage reform should not be brushed aside
- More than just wages …
- Productivity approach alone won’t solve income inequality
- The chicken-and-egg problem of wage and productivity – “Workers who perceive their wages as unfair would have lower productivity than they otherwise are capable of.”
- Offer decent wages and hire citizens
- limits in linking productivity to wage increases (The Straits Times 9 Jun 2012)
- Scope for minimum wage in some sectors here: Industry players – ” there is scope for such a policy to be introduced in specific sectors, especially where there is a large pool of low-wage workers.”
- Raising wages: Use a ladder, not a floor
- Does Singapore need Economic Restructuring II?
- Does Singapore need Economic Restructuring II or another ‘Wage Revolution?’ Part 2
- Say What, Swee Say?
- The Taming of the Union