Double Inflictions: Cost-of-living & Foreign Workers
While the Government has introduced a regular slew of technical measures supposedly meant to assist the growing number of the unemployed, it has done little to mitigate the twin impact of rising cost-of-living and the lax entry of foreign workers.
Consequently, the average workers and their families are the hardest hit. Apart from not being gainfully employed made worse by “foreign” competition, it has become increasingly difficult to make ends meet when the cost-of-living continues to inch upwards albeit at a slower rate.
The ruling regime’s often repeated emphasis on the importance of tripartism is understandable in view of its heavily vested interest in the nose-led trade unions, which only represent a minor portion of the working public. Consequently, non-unionised and low-wage workers are left to fend for themselves – in fact, they face a stronger competition from the influx of foreign workers from neighbouring countries.
The wide availability of skills retraining programmes is good, but the courses should be more realistic and specifically tailored to the existing job market. A lot of people having gone through the retraining schemes are still unemployed, many due to differences in age, pay and expectations.
The joblessness rate has hit a five-year high of 4.8% in March 2009, and economists have expected the figure to rise even higher in the coming months. Job shedding has far surpassed job creation, as worldwide demand for the wholly export-orientated Singapore produce continues to dive southwards. The recent injection of a $20 Billion stimulus package has yet to bear tangible fruits. Many felt that it was insufficient to counter the current economic tsunami. Other nations, even Hongkong, were seen to be more “appropriately” generous.
Meanwhile, inflation has hit almost 3%. The costs of basic necessities such as food, transport and health care are still relatively high. Indirect taxes such as the GST that have contributed to their high costs, could be reduced during this economic downturn, and reintroduced if necessary at a later date when circumstances are more favourable.
The projected economy contraction of between 6% – 9% this year, and a possible double-digit recession next year, point to the inadequacy of our current economic model in coping with the new global paradigm. A fundamental change may be required, something which the Government cannot afford to ignore if it intends to be relevant.
The Prime Minister, in his May Day speech, warned that the anticipated “U’ shaped or even “L” shaped recovery may take several years to materialize, especially when affronted by the new H1N1 virus that threatens to sweep the world. There is thus a dire need for the authorities to do all it can to trim both the cost-of-living and the influx of foreign workers. Those twin viruses are already crippling the citizens here, apparently with official assistance.
For & on behalf of the
National Solidarity Party