Monday, September 20, 2010

Working Poor

About nine years ago, Jame Gomez was talking about "New Poor" in Workers Party's various rallies. But after nine years down the road, many people are talking about "Working Poor". i.e. It is no longer "New" but just as any other average guy or gal in the work force who are now considered as "Poor".

What has happened throughout this period that created this Working Poor phenomenon? The widening gap of income inequality caused by Globalization as well as ultra-capitalism has taken its toll on the middle class in all societies. The changing of labour conditions also caused a great diminishing middle class in many societies, including Singapore.

Karl Marx has predicted the eventuality of the diminishing middle class which will create social class struggle within an economy, if Capitalism is allowed to go to the fullest extreme and unregulated or checked.

This is especially so in Singapore when our country is just a little red dot on Earth. There will always be "Cheapest, Fasterest, Betterest" labour else where who are willing to come to work in Singapore. There are billions of people on Earth and Singapore only need a few millions of them.

What it would mean to Singaporeans is that without proper checks and control, each and everyone of us could be replaced by some other "Foreign Talents". Our wages will be forever suppressed or stagnant, which is the case right now. In spite of wonderful Economic Growth, the real income of the working class has stagnated in the past 10 years. Some even face depression of wages and some, worst, retrenched and face either structural unemployment or simply underemployment. Thus, our Working Poor emerges.

The problems of Working Poor will continue to deteriorate in the years to come in Singapore. Without a proper social safety net, we will face more Singaporeans being displaced by the "Cheapest, Fasterest, Betterest" Foreign Labour. Wages will continue to be suppressed while cost of living will continue to rise, mainly due to higher rental charges.

Standards and quality of living will go down while cost of living goes up.

Jobs is no longer a problem; Jobs that pay enough to sustain decent livelihood will be the main problem. It is under such circumstances that places like Hong Kong and Malaysia are setting minimum wages for their vulnerable group of workers.

The widening income gap is the main concern that this PAP government has refused to acknowledge. If this is allow to carry on, social tension will mount. What will become of Singapore? I really don't want to imagine.

But here are some key indications:

1) Singaporeans can no longer afford a decent HDB flat. It takes two income earners to take up a 30 years mortgage to pay for a decent HDB flat. Singaporeans may need to pay a 35 years or even 40 years mortgage if things carry on like this.

2) There will not be enough CPF savings for retirement for 80% of Singaporeans.

3) Singaporeans will have no retirement at all and will have to work until the day they die. This is what PAP and the Main Stream Media trying to "mentally condition" Singaporeans into believing that working until death is "NORMAL" or even "GOOD FOR YOU".

4) There will be more people living in poverty when they get older. Well, new definition of poverty will emerge.

5) Social instability. There are already ground grumbles and whispers of great discontent on the ground. If this carries on without proper social safety net being set up, I really don't dare to imagine what will happen in the near future.

Goh Meng Seng


Don. said...

Minimum wage is not a be-all-end-all solution, to ensure that minimum wage legislation is effective, one must implement accompanying legislation that allows it to work. This would include employment terms which favour local talent, non-discriminatory employment practices, just to name a few.

The problem here is that once we implement minimum wage, all of these other legislation must follow. That is why the government has deferred on this, as putting all these legislation together would truly make Singapore uncompetitive in the medium term.

I applaud your valour in seeking alternatives, maybe you would like to share what ideas you have for our 'working poor'.

Wil Wilkins said...

I agree with Don that minimum wage is not enough.

Minimum wage helps the bottom, but not the middle class.

What is necessary is increased bargaining power vis employers for the middle class.