Recently, Minister for Social and Family Development Mr Tan Chuan Jin released a video on the People’s Action Party (PAP) Facebook page to explain why the government has chosen to implement the “Workfare” scheme as opposed to a minimum wage in Singapore.
Mr Tan says: “What Workfare does is help to boost what individuals may be earning, but without imposing that burden on companies that may be worried about their bottom line. This is meant to help individuals, to make sure they remain employable.” He warns that if a minimum wage is imposed, we may face the same situation where companies unable to bear the burden of extra costs close down or ship off to other countries, causing more Singaporeans to lose their jobs instead. To many of us who have seen this happen in neighboring countries like Australia, this is a fair warning.
Mr Tan also says workfare is a scheme that supplements the incomes and retirement savings of older low wage Singaporean workers earning up to a maximum of $1,900 a month. It also gives them money to attend training courses which would increase their skills and thus improve their income.
I think this is a step in the right direction, and as an older Singaporean myself I am thankful that the government is finally listening and becoming more socially conscious. Yet there is more that needs to be done.
The concerns that various Singaporeans and opposition politicians have raised do not stem just from a concern for older low wage workers. They are also concerned that our young, especially our ITE and polytechnic graduates, may be unable to cope with rising costs in the future as their wages remain stagnated.
What the government needs to do is to address the problems of rising costs of living and stagnating wages. If they don’t want to implement a minimum wage, they must find some other means of boosting the incomes of low wage families, many of whom do not fall into the category of “older low wage workers”.
So I urge Singaporeans, think carefully about what politicians are offering you this election. If you are like me, and do not agree with a minimum wage, then vote for a party with a sensible alternative. Or if you choose to vote for the PAP, then find ways to hammer your concerns to them and make them respond to you. Happy voting!