A netizen took to Facebook on Monday (19 October) to highlight that the latest “folksy wisdom” remark made by Workers’ Party’s (WP) Jamus Lim gave the Manpower Minister and employers the chance to avoid addressing the important issue of minimum wage in Singapore.
“Jo Teo and employers must be relieved with the brouhaha over Jamus Lim’s ‘folksy wisdom’ remark about minimum wage, which the ST (The Straits Times) is helping to spin,” said Foong Swee Fong.
The 56-year-old kite-surfing instructor added, “For one thing, it takes away the heat they have been getting recently about diminishing the ‘Singapore core’ of businesses with foreign workers”.
During a debate in Parliament recently, Mr Lim, along with other members of WP, were part of a heated argument with PAP’s MP for Tampines GRC Koh Poh Koon about minimum wage.
Criticising WP’s proposal of setting up a universal minimum wage of $1,300 could lead to unemployment, Mr Koh argued that the tripartite partners already look at data in their discussions, but the practical considerations of implementing minimum wage may be challenging.
He also brought up Hokkien idioms used by a union member to illustrate this and the colloquial wisdom lying behind these phrases.
To this, Associate Professor Lim noted that WP’s proposal is based on studies that show that a minimum wage does not lead to an increase in unemployment, and is not based on “folksy wisdom and beliefs of labour union leaders”.
“With all due respect, as much as it will be lovely to always rely on folksy wisdom and beliefs by labour union leaders, at the same time, it’s important to realise that when we talk about studies that show that the minimum wage does not lead to any appreciable increase in unemployment, this is based on careful consideration and not just beliefs.”
However, the term of “folksy” that used by Assoc Prof Lim in Parliament appears to have triggered strong response from some of the union leaders as they felt that his remark “belittling the work of unionists”.
Number of foreign workers must be reduced to increase wage of locals
In Mr Foong’s post, he pointed out that the high number of foreign workers in the country is making it hard for Singaporeans to make a decent wage.
He explained that Singapore “open leg” immigration policy has contributed to the high volume of foreign workers here, and politicians are not willing to address this.
“For another, it detracts from the real issue of why wages are so low in the first place, which, they are not willing to address – that there are too many foreign workers which the “open leg” immigration policy has help contributed,” he said.
The netizen went on to assert that employers prefer hiring foreigners more than Singaporeans as the foreigners are “more insecure and therefore pliant”.
“For example, you can house them en masse in a dorm, seat them like cattle in a lorry in the wee-hours to transport them to the work site, make them sit by the roadside till the boss arrives to open the gate, make them work till dark and send them back to the dorm, with nary a whimper from any worker. Of course, they probably cost less too,” Mr Foong explained.
Adding to that, Mr Foong noted that the real reason wages are so low is because the asking pay of a foreign labour is low given that the “supply of workers has far exceeded demand”.
As such, this caused Singaporeans to suffer as they cannot earn a decent living, even if they work around the clock.
“Of course, employers will always complain that no Singaporeans would want to take up such jobs, blah blah blah, but that’s because the wages are way too low for them, but not so for foreigners who do not face the same cost of living that Singaporeans do,” the netizen stated.
Given this situation, Mr Foong said that the only way to solve this problem is to “drastically” bring down the number of work permits, even A-Pass and Employment Pass in the country. By doing so, wages of Singaporeans will increase, Mr Foong said.
“Instead, we are flooded with foreign workers on the one hand and yet trying to raise wages on the other? Isn’t that like the proverbial dog chasing it’s own tail?
“Please, do not detract from the real cause, face the issue squarely and then we won’t have to tie ourselves in knots over whether the minimum wage should apply to foreign workers, about loop hopes like phantom workers and kickback of salaries or even having barking dogs attacking harmless semantics like ‘folksy wisdom’,” Mr Foong said.