Why anti-discrimination labour laws are needed
ACTING Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said moral suasion and tripartite cooperation between the state, employer and employees may be more effective than legislation in curbing workplace discrimination ("Govt is open to anti-discrimination labour laws: Chuan-Jin"; Tuesday).
While I agree that the law by itself cannot eliminate workplace discrimination, we should not ignore the fact that the law has a deterrent effect and strongly influences human behaviour.
Currently, employees stand in a legal grey zone when faced with discriminatory workplace practices and many cases may go unreported, which in turn reinforces such discriminatory behaviour and may cause it to proliferate.
While we should not legislate against every single undesirable behaviour, the law represents a statement on our most important values. The lack of an anti-discrimination law relegates discrimination to the level of mere social rather than legal unacceptability. This omission is particularly glaring when equal opportunity for all was a key reason for our nation's split from Malaysia.
Also, in enacting anti-discrimination laws, we are not blazing an untested path that could harm our economy. Other small vibrant economies, such as Ireland and Hong Kong, also have anti-discrimination laws and there is no indication that these have hurt their economic competitiveness.
As the website for the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices notes, there is a business case for fair employment practices as it widens the pool of prospective talent.
While our country's economy has caught up with the rest of the developed world, it is time to also bring our rights protection framework in line.
Gerald Kok Seng-Kiat