With economic growth, why aren't low-wage workers earning more?

I felt the minimum wage roundtable was disappointing as it appeared to be a rehashing of the same opinions ($15 okay for bowl of ramen, but not more than $3 for hawker food?; Dec 2).

As there seems to be an agreement that low-wage workers are underpaid, perhaps there could be a more robust analysis of why this is so.

After all, with minimal government intervention and a non-adversarial trade union, wages have largely been determined by free market forces. With robust economic growth over the years, why or how have these workers' wages slumped instead?

A more robust analysis of the root causes should guide our policymaking. This is more fruitful than continuing the debate of a universal minimum wage versus the Singapore-style progressive wage model with the Workfare Income Supplement.

In addition, the focus on wage alone is insufficient as it does not take into account the subsidies and other forms of financial assistance that the Government provides.

Finally, we need more engagement with low-wage workers themselves. Let's hear their stories and seek to understand their struggles.

Kelvin Hong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2018, with the headline 'With economic growth, why aren't low-wage workers earning more?'. Print Edition | Subscribe