The Straits Times says

Expanding the progressive wage model

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The progressive wage model (PWM) is becoming an increasingly significant feature of the Singapore economy. Developed by unions, employers and the Government, it lays out the minimum wages that employers need to pay workers based on their individual skill levels. To move up the wage ladder, workers would need to attend skills courses to upgrade themselves. Last week's Budget speech declared the Government's aspiration for every sector of the economy to have some form of progressive wage. That goal is well within sight. The PWM has helped to lift the wages of workers in the cleaning, security and landscaping sectors since it was introduced in 2012. It will become mandatory for the lift and escalator maintenance sector next year. The Government is also studying how to implement the model in the retail sector, to benefit salespeople, cashiers and others in supermarkets, convenience stores and fashion outlets. The retail sector's inclusion into the PWM framework would be significant given that it is among those employing the highest numbers of lower-wage workers. Discussions are ongoing in the waste management and food services segments of the economy too. About 70,000 workers could benefit if the PWM is implemented in the food services and retail sectors. Clearly, the PWM is sustainable across the economy, going by how it has worked well in sectors in which it has been introduced.

Indeed, there is no reason why the PWM should be restricted to low-income workers. Middle-income employees in certain industries, too, could enjoy the protection of structured wage progression. The National Trades Union Congress is in discussions with employers in strata management and solar technology - both of which employ workers not seen typically as low-wage earners - and in pest management, on how to implement the model. In fact, the model could be refined by setting out salary and skills ladders for vocations, rather than industries. Consequently, occupations that could be covered include clerks, general machine operators and electricians, whose contribution to the economy cuts across industrial boundaries.

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