Over the last decade or so when Singapore experienced the so-called “golden period” described by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, Singaporean workers have not seen their conditions improve.
In fact statistics show that wages for the labour force, especially those in the lower income levels, have diminished. Between 1998 and 2003, the average household monthly income of the poorest 20 percent of the population decreased by nearly 15 percent while the richest quintile increased by 11.7 percent.
In that same period, while the average wage dropped for the poorest 40 percent of households, their expenditure continued to outstrip their income.
These have contributed significantly to the widening income disparity in Singapore. Our Gini coefficient, an indicator of income inequality, resembles those of Third World countries.
Part of the problem is that the PAP Government continues to use cheap foreign labour to suppress wages in a bid to show that our economy is still making money.
There are, of course, a few ways that an economy can grow. One is that our workforce is innovative and intelligent, producing goods and services. The other is that wage levels are ruthlessly suppressed to give the illusion of healthy profit margins.
Needless to say, the second mode of economic “growth” is not viable nor sustainable. This is clearly demonstrated in surveys that show that among the various Asian societies, Singaporeans are most likely to have suffered depression, stress, and fatigue.
But even before our workers can share in the largesse of the boom years, they are now reeling from the devastating effects of the current global economic crisis.
While the going was good, workers did not share in the progress. Now that things have turned sour, workers are expected to bear the brunt by getting retrenched or having to suffer further wage cuts. Singaporean workers are in a lose-lose arrangement.
On this occasion of International Workers’ Day, the Singapore Democrats repeat our call for the Government to cease its exploitation of our workers and to return to them the rights to freely organise themselves.
The National Trades Union Congress is a relic that serves neither the purpose of a labour union nor the interests of the workers. It is merely a tool of the PAP to continue the subjugation of workers and to buttress the power of the ruling party.
The Singapore Democrats repeat our call for a democratic and free labour union where workers are empowered and be free of economic enslavement. In doing so we will cultivate an economy that can compete on the world stage and not be at the constant mercy of an export-oriented economic model.
To urgently address some of the immediate problems faced by our workers, we repeat our calls:
* for a Singaporeans First Policy in which foreign workers will be retrenched first and Singaporeans laid off only as a last resort. In addition such a policy will require the Government and employers to employ foreigners only if locals cannot be found for the job. This will ensure that only qualified foreigners will be allowed into Singapore.
* to introduce Minimum Wage to ensure that employees be paid fair wages for their work commensurate with the cost of living.
* for Retrenchment Entitlements where the State pays all retrenched workers their salary for a limited period if and when they are retrenched. Such a scheme will provide workers a cushion when they are retrenched.
For more details of the above policies, please click here.
April 30 (Bloomberg) — Singapore employers fired a record number of workers last quarter as the nation’s deepest recession since independence in 1965 forced manufacturers to cut output.
The Southeast Asian nation’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 3.2 percent from a revised 2.5 percent in the previous quarter, the Ministry of Manpower said today. Employers retrenched 10,800 workers, and another 1,800 were released from their contracts early, bringing total job cuts to 12,600.
The worst global recession since World War II has battered trade-dependent Singapore, where the government says gross domestic product may shrink as much as 9 percent this year. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s efforts to prevent job losses by handing out cash haven’t stopped companies such as music- player maker Creative Technology Ltd. from firing workers.
“Falling external demand has severely affected the manufacturing sector,” the report said. Employment declined “as the economy continued to worsen.”
Singapore will make a “slow and gradual” climb out of the current recession, and the island’s economy won’t experience a “decisive rebound” this year, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said yesterday.
The jobless rate was the highest in more than three years, and in line with the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of nine economists. The manufacturing industry lost 19,900 jobs, while service industries added 10,300 new positions last quarter, the report showed.
Construction companies hired 8,500 new workers, resulting in a total net job loss of 1,000 jobs in the first three months of 2009, the report said.
About 13,920 workers were retrenched last year in Singapore, the most since 2003, while another 2,970 people were released before their contracts ended, the most since 1998.
In the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, about 30,000 workers were retrenched in Singapore, and some 26,000 people lost their jobs in the 2001 recession.