More needs to be done to make jobs better for low-wage workers: Lim Swee Say

SINGAPORE - While having a wage ladder in place is a big step forward in helping low-wage workers, more needs to be done to make jobs "easier, safer, smarter", said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say on Saturday.

Mr Lim, who is the former labour chief, said that making the Progressive Wage Model - a wage ladder that links pay hikes to training - a licensing requirement in the cleaning, security and landscape sectors is important but "not enough".

"The licensing provides the framework, so now we have to turn the framework into real action," he said.

"We need to spend a lot more time, a lot more effort to look into...how we can help (low-wage workers) to upgrade skills, how we can through recognition and affirmation enhance their productivity."

Mr Lim was speaking to reporters at the People's Association awards ceremony at the Ulu Pandan Community Club.

Asked about recommendations by the National Wages Council (NWC) announced on Friday, he said that the guidelines were encouraging.

Low-wage workers are set for another pay increase after the NWC recommended a minimum $60 increase for those earning a basic salary of up to $1,100 a month. The move, which works out to be at least a 5.5 per cent pay rise, could benefit at least 127,000 workers, if all employers follow the recommendations.

"I think we are very happy that for the last...three years or so with the wage guidelines for low-wage workers, we have succeeded in reducing the number of workers earning less than $1,000 from about 10th percentile to today about 7th percentile," said Mr Lim.

"Workers will go to jobs that will treat them better, that will enable them to do their jobs better, to progress better...The focus is really in terms of how can we make better use of every worker so that these higher wages can be supported through higher skills and higher levels of productivity."

The National Trades Union Congress has also called on companies that are doing well to reward workers for their contributions towards Singapore's economic progress.

Mr Lim said that the Government will do the same, without giving details.

At the awards ceremony, 19 constituencies were given the new WeConnect award, which recognises their efforts in bringing the community together.