MPs seek more targeted help to further narrow income gap

Singapore's efforts to tackle the issue of income inequality have paid off, but the country must not rest on its laurels, said MPs.

While they welcomed the measures to support workers and families, four MPs who spoke yesterday on the Budget had suggestions on ways to better help those that may be lagging behind amid the uncertain economic climate.

These include targeted help for workers to switch careers and tailoring employment needs for the vulnerable, as well as expanding the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) to more sectors.

Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC) said it is good news that Singapore's Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality on a scale of zero to one, had dropped to 0.452 last year, compared to 0.458 in 2018.

But she is concerned about the impact of technological change on workers, as research has shown that innovators, investors and high-skilled IT workers tend to benefit the most in the future economy, while the rest of the population could be at risk of being left out.

To avert this winners-take-all scenario, she called for the Government to conduct a more in-depth study on how workers and businesses can continue to stay relevant.

Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) proposed providing targeted help so that vulnerable workers can switch career paths, and to support social enterprises that offer employment to vulnerable groups.

Mr Lim Swee Say (East Coast GRC), who is a former manpower minister, also urged the fourth-generation leadership team to widen and deepen the adoption of the PWM to "many more jobs in many more sectors" to narrow the income gap.

The model, a ladder that sets out minimum pay and training requirements for workers at different skill levels, is mandatory in the cleaning security, and landscape sectors.

Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), also urged the Government to support industry stakeholders if they are keen to adopt the PWM.

He said sectors like waste collection and strata management are keen to have a mandatory PWM.

Ms Phua and Mr Zainal also called for more measures to support the employment of persons with disabilities.

Various job portals such as MyCareersFuture.sg or the national jobs bank should also indicate positions that welcome persons with disabilities, suggested Mr Zainal.

The SkillsFuture movement can also include people with disabilities in a "more substantive and systemic way," said Ms Phua.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 27, 2020, with the headline 'MPs seek more targeted help to further narrow income gap'. Print Edition | Subscribe