(Or “The PAP Repents?”)
PAP MP and Parly Sec, Sim Ann, wrote of increasing social safety nets in an ST artcle yesterday. This reminded me that last Friday, TOC’s Uncle Leong talked of the latest stats report on employment and unlike SPH and MediaCorp publications and channels told us the not so good news. In particular: “Nominal mean monthly earnings rose over the year by 5.4% in the third quarter of 2011, lower than the 6.0% growth in the preceding quarter. After taking into account headline inflation, real average monthly earnings slipped by 0.2%”.
Since real average monthly earnings fell by 0.2% year-on-year, could real median earnings have fallen by a greater percentage?
This, in turn, reminded me that three Tuesdays ago, what with a slowdown (and possibly a recession) looming, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged the NTUC to pay closer attention to lower-income, less-skilled workers and help them get a “fair deal” – in terms of working conditions, skills training and decent salaries.
First a quibble: shouldn’t he have said, “fairer deal”? With a cabinet minister as the secretary-general of NTUC, they would already have a “fair deal”, wouldn’t they? Or was this a slip of the tongue?. Or was he juz being honest in admitting that these workers were not getting a fair deal what with the competition from FTs suppressing wages.
He expressed his confidence that S’pore can achieve its “ambitious” target of raising productivity by 2 to 3% over the next decade, “We’re putting in the courses, we’re putting in the incentives, we’re putting in the support to employers and companies so that they can make the investment, so that they can transform the way they operate.”
This would be difficult if FTs continue flooding in because for any given level of capacity, the more workers there are, productivity drops. (Of course, if the additional workers allow capacity to expand, then productivity can increase. But the low level of productivity growth here, which even the government admits is worrying (but which Tan Jee Say thinks could be a statistical fluke) shows that the additional FTs are here not to add to capacity, but to cut costs.
The total number of non-Singaporeans (PRs and foreigners) grew by 80,400 in 2011, compared to 59,100 in 2010, according to the latest government statistics. This is a year-on-year increase in the rate of growth of non-Singaporeans of about 36%. Didn’t the PM promise to cut back on the number of FTs being allowed in earlier this year? Instead the numbers are increasing.
Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt for trying, the 36% increase shows the magnitude of the task to cut back FTs to raise productivity.
But let’s give some credit to the PM. He conceded (Remember the PAP never ever conceded anything when dad or “Peanuts” Goh was in charge), “We cannot assume that if wages go up, the lower-income will be carried along.” With globalisation and fierce competition, the lower-income will have a problem competing unless special efforts are made to help them.
I’m glad to hear that he no longer expects the trickle-down effect and retraining to take care of this problem: hence the “special efforts”.
The government will, he reminded us, increase social spending, and ensure that the low-income workers and their families get access to education, housing, healthcare and transport. It will also build on its Workfare Income Supplement scheme.
Nothing new in these words, but gven that he and the PAP had a bad election result, things will be done to make the governing PAP more popular. There won’t be anymore VivianB sneers like,“How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?” Rather more Sim Ann type comments.
But as usual, the PAP wants “tripartite responsibility” to ensure that the lower-income “benefit from the country’s progress”. Yes the employers should play their part, but asking the workers? Kinda rich of asking the weakest of the three to help out the government and employers?
Anyway, as it’s the Christmas season when even Scrooge repented and became generous, let’s not be too harsh on the PM and the PAP and, its soul mate, the NTUC?
Have a gd time yah. Gd feasting and boozing. You can repent later for yr holiday indulgences.
(I’ll post my tots on the casual racism of Seng Thong Han next week)
Note: No postings on 24, 25 and 26 December.