Lower-wage workers

Aid measures should also factor in inflation and rising costs

Singapore has made some progress in raising the pay of lower-wage workers (LWWs: Can efforts to help lower-wage workers be sustained?; Sept 3).

However, the problems seem to have persisted since the 2000s. It will take a long time to implement the 18 key recommendations of the tripartite workgroup looking into the issues of lower-wage workers.

We should make some effort to improve the welfare and income of these workers to be closer to those of median-income earners.

Perhaps some other parameters have to be looked at in examining why the gulf between lower-and median-wage workers has not been narrowed.

We have to tackle problems from both ends of the issue.

Raising the pay of lower-wage workers is fine, but would a rise be sufficient to withstand the impact of higher living costs created by high inflation and price hikes in the healthcare and other sectors?

Lower-skill jobs exist in well-developed countries too.

The ratio of the income of the bottom 20 per cent of workers to the salaries of median full-timers in Finland is 0.77, 0.69 in South Korea, and 0.62 in the United States. In Singapore, it is 0.54.

Focusing on finding ways to uplift lower-wage workers through the Progressive Wage Model and Workfare Income Supplement scheme against the tide of inflation and price hikes may not be enough.

If we can rein in price hikes and narrow the gulf between lower-wage workers and median-income earners, we may be one step closer to improving the lives of lower-wage workers.

Paul Chan Poh Hoi

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2021, with the headline 'Aid measures should also factor in inflation and rising costs'. Subscribe