Is Singapore an inclusive society?

Posted by Sinapan Samydorai under Opinions on 6 December 2006

If Singapore is an inclusive society that respects human dignity - it will surely reduce poverty among the 300,000 low wage workers.

The Good and Service Tax [GST] is regressive tax that hurts the poor most. Do you agree to the proposal of the Singapore government to increase the GST from 5 to 7 per cent? Current Poll Results To Poll Now - Go to the Poll section on the left column - CLICK

An inclusive society promotes greater respect for the dignity of the socially deprived - the jobless and the "working poor" who earn low wages! The jobless and working poor exist, they are growing in number and their income gap is growing. They will not simple disappear under the weigth of globalization or by closing our eyes!

The majority will continue to exist but a few may choose suicide to protest against the indignity imposed on them.

The present support projects seem to be designed to humiliate the excluded - the jobless and the working poor. The jobless are excluded from the assistance schemes after failing to find employment within the stipulated period.

To elevate the poor out of poverty is not only about pouring more money into more of the same-kind of inadequate handout projects. It has more to do with the process of "empowering" the various support projects, for example, assign sufficient number of stafts to visit and regularly follow-up on the assistance given to the jobless and working poor.

Are we listening to the excluded persons views, the poor and jobless do think and have valid opinions, let them speak their views as citizens of this country. What are the obligation of the Singapore government towards the well being of its citizens in the all inclusive society?

Singapore is a rich nation with the highest concentration of millionaires in Asia. How will the "redistribution of wealth" happen when there is denial of respect for core labour standards including the need for a minimum wage system? Why is the need for a 'minimum wage' to fulfil basic needs rejected by our elite politicians?

The purpose of minimum wage is to protect vulnerable low wage workers from exploitation and poverty.

The key purpose of a minimum wage system is social, preventing labour exploitation and poverty. The minimum wage provides sufficient purchasing power to enable a worker to have a basic standard of living. Its application could be restricted to a limited number of low-paying sectors or to selected categories of vulnerable workers.

Minimum wage can became a key social policy tool to protect low-skilled workers by setting a wage floor below which no payment should be made.

South Korea and Vietnam have a single minimum wage for the entire country. Thailand, Indonesia, China, and Japan, have decentralised minimum wage systems. Cambodia has minimum wage for only the garment and textile sector. Hong Kong has minimum wage for only the domestic workers.

The International Labour organisation (ILO) promotes Conventions on minimum wage like the Minimum Wage Fixing Machinery Convention (No. 26) 1928 and the Minimum Wage Fixing Convention (No. 131) 1970.

ILO studies indicate that minimum wage results in poverty alleviation by improving the living conditions of workers and their families while having no negative results in terms of employment.

Singapore's argument against a minimum wage system on grounds of possible lost of investment and employment is not convincing.

"The low skilled and older workers are especially vulnerable to becoming low wage workers. Currently, about 500,000 workers in our resident labour force have less than secondary education, and many of them are also older workers..... In Singapore, low wage workers form around 20% of full-time local workers, i.e. around 300,000 workers." according to the Ministerial Committee to Study Ways to Help Low Wage Workers, 30 June 2005.

In Singapore, the "low wage" does not adequately provide for the basic needs resulting in a society of 'working poor.' They continue to work in "low wage" jobs with no alternatives to reduce their poverty. In this case, Minimum wage will lead to the reduction of poverty for the 300,000 workers and their families. Low wage workers are defined as those who earn $1,200 or less in gross monthly income [the bottom 20 percent of wage earners].

Is there sufficient political will on the part of the "elite politicians" in parliament to reduce the level of poverty, in measureable ways, among the 300,000 working poor by introducing minimum wage policies or any other effective measures?

In the coming years, it will be good to know how many of this working poor are earning more then $1200. The Ministerial Committee to help low wage workers should table their report in parliament.

The NTUC, MOM and MCYS have all the capacity and tools to uplift the 300,000 working poor from poverty - in solidarity all fellow Singaporeans should continue monitoring and supporting the "low-wage" workers and their families!

Is workfare another form of welfare? "Workfare to be fixed part of social safety net,......The government assistance will be partly in cash, but most of it will go into people's provident funds, health care and "retirement", reported The Straits Times. Workfare is good for the short-term. But will workfare lift the "working poor" out of the "poverty trap"?

Without the minimum wage the "working poor" will remain poor. We need effective solutions not "short-cuts" that look good but without meaningful answers to the daily problems faced by the "working poor".

Sources and Relevant Links:

Think Centre Proposed GST hike and more help for the needy
06 December 2006

AFP News Hong Kong shelves controversial sales tax plan
5 December 2006

MOM Ministerial Committee to Study Ways to Help Low Wage Workers

Todayonline Analysts urge S'pore to use steady economic conditions to address growing problem of widening income gap
13 November 2006

Singaporepatriot Is a GST hike the only solution?
4 December 2006

memoryanddesire Workfare in Singapore
4 December 2006

yawshinleong Our Embattled Middle Class
4 December 2006

charissaishere Progessive GST anyone?
2 December 2006

ST Forum Logic of proposed GST hike eludes him
30 November 2006

chiatilik GST Hike Propaganda
20 November 2006

melvintansg Ensure GST increase of 2% truly benefits the people
17 November 2006

conformityisdead Goods & Services Tax
13 November 2006 Future of Singapore
28 October 2006

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