When several MPs called for a minimum wage to be implemented, Lim Swee Say proudly declared that we do not need a minimum wage because we already “have a minimum wage model” which is “more than a minimum wage”. He who brought us such gems as “cheaper, better, faster”, “upturn the downturn” and “the little frog, deaf to all criticisms” can add one more feather to his cap.
While the exact meaning of what he just said remains completely open to interpretation, he did give a few important clues: that some odd form of minimum wage we have in Singapore has got something to do with WIS, something to do with WTS and something to do with NTUC’s progressive wage plan.
Only WIS really supplements the incomes of low-wage earners, and then only if they are over 35. This is all paid for by the state instead of by companies and really doesn’t encourage companies to raise wages. In spite of Singapore’s aversion to state welfarism, it seems that WIS really bucks the trend. The quantum is small, and a large portion of it isn’t cash in hand.
WTS helps encourage workers training, which is good and right, but really does nothing that a minimum wage sets out to do.
The progressive wage model really just sets up a “promotion” pathway for low-wage workers. The lowest paid don’t actually get paid more – they need to be “promoted” in order to get any increase in their wages. No “promotion” no wage increase. Nevermind that this scheme has had to be almost force-fed to different sectors, the plan is taking so long to roll out, it seems that some labour MPs are thinking that they’ll need to legislate it to force companies to buy in.
Would our labour chief care to elaborate on his cryptic message?