The minimum wage issue has been the subject of public discussion lately, after a heated debate over a minimum wage erupted in Parliament on 15 October between the People’s Action Party (PAP) MP Koh Poh Koon and the Workers’ Party (WP) leader Pritam Singh.
Dr Koh, who is also NTUC’s Deputy Secretary-General, had argued in Parliament that the WP’s proposal of setting up a universal minimum wage of S$1,300 could result in a worse situation for businesses and workers, and potentially lead to a “political auction”.
WP’s minimum wage proposal was further criticized by some union leaders, who claimed that the lowest salaries in certain sectors are already above S$1,300, adding that the formulated policies derived from data and the NTUC leaders’ knowledge of ground sentiments.
Meanwhile, a 16-year-old student penned a letter to Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) member Bryan Lim to voice his point of view on the minimum wage issue, as he reflected on his Social Studies’ examination questions.
Mr Lim shared a screenshot of the letter on Facebook on Tuesday (27 Oct), along with the student’s Social Studies O-Level examination papers which dated on Monday (26 Oct).
“My social studies paper today mainly talked about minimum wage as a topic question in the paper, which consists about 70% of the whole day,” the student wrote in the letter.
“I was disturbed to find that the sources that talked about this issue erred on the side of the opinion on the current Government,” he added.
The student believes that a minimum wage policy will help to improve the lives of low-wage workers, rather than causing unemployment.
“I knew from my contextual knowledge that minimum wages, when its policies are set properly, will not lead to unemployment, instead; it will lead to higher wages and better living quality for low wages worker,” he noted.
The student recalled the story of a 74-year-old woman who was featured in SDP’s video on 7 July, saying that he was “aghast” to hear that an elderly person would still have to live with a “two-digit pay”.
The elderly woman, Madam Tan, works as a dishwasher and earns only S$32 per day. It was stated in the video that she has medical conditions and had undergone an operation.
Her application for social welfare was rejected due to her 50-year-old son earns S$3,000 salary per month.
Though Madam Tan noted that her son could write an appeal for her social welfare application, she claimed that her son does not understand English.
“Certainly, such policies will help her. However, I am not sure if I am ever going to see such policy implement,” said the student.
He continued, “I am reaching out to you [Mr Lim], as you have more knowledge on this topic [minimum wage issue] than me.”
In response, Mr Lim praised the student for voicing out his opinion on the minimum wage issue and said that he has arranged for a meet up with the student after his O-Level exam.
“I am heartened [and] delighted that even a minor can understand the merits of a minimum wage. I have given him my blessings for his remaining papers,” said the politician.
“One word sprang to my mind when I saw his message. The word is ‘hope’,” he remarked.
Citing a link to SDP’s statement which released on 23 October, Mr Lim hinted that the party will be releasing its updated minimum wage policy “soon”.
SDP said in its statement that based on its latest review on minimum wage policy, the party is planning to propose a minimum wage of S$10 per hour, which would work out to be S$1,760 a month in a 44-hours work week.
“This would commensurate with the amount required for an older person to achieve a basic standard of living in Singapore at S$1,721,” it asserted.
Bryan Lim’s viewpoint on minimum wage policy
Speaking of Mr Lim’s viewpoint on setting up a minimum wage policy, the politician believes that implementing such a policy will not reduce Singaporeans’ competitive advantage, nor “drives away investors”.
“Besides labour costs, a huge chunk of overheads goes to the payment of rental to the Government. If this rental issue can be addressed, then half of the problem can be solved,” he wrote in a Facebook post on 2 September.
Citing other developed countries’ minimum wage policy, Mr Lim pointed out that the Foreign Direct Investment inflows in Japan and South Korea were not “drastically affected over the years just because they hire locals to do the jobs”.
“Additionally, if we enact a minimum wage law like what some other developed countries have done [and] I mean a wage fit for living [and] survival in the most expensive city in the world, Singaporeans will not shun some of the jobs on offer.
“When we have a decent minimum wage in place which applies to all nationalities, there will be no incentive for companies to hire a foreign worker,” he asserted.