Photo of elderly cleaner from Straits Times

Employers of cheap labour are cheering the Singapore’s National Wage Council’s (NWC) decision to depress low income wages. As a press statement yesterday (May 31), the NWC called for only a S$45 pay raise for low income workers earning below S$1,200. The NWC also “recommended” the salary ceiling for the guideline to S$1,200.

The president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (ASME), Kurt Wee, cheered the decision to depress wages and lauded:

“The flexibility of a range of suggested increments was useful, given that the current economic climate is soft and companies digitalising their business processes are still retraining their staff. The new guidelines, being slightly more tempered, would allow employers to phase in wage increases from increases in performance or output from the workforce.”

Other business groups like the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commence and Industry and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) also expressed fervent support for the NWC’s decision. The SNEF president, Robert Yap, who also sit as a council member in the NWC openly expressed his conflict of interests:

“Lowering the recommended increment range this year is to encourage more employers to implement the pay rises and ensure they are sustainable. Employers may not be afraid to give an increment, but can we keep on giving? It is very difficult to give one year and the next year take it back.”

There is no Minimum Wage or any living wage standard equivalent that considers the cost of living. The stipulated S$1,200 monthly income is less than a third of the median monthly wage of S$4,056 in 2016, but it comes not a surprise since Singapore’s gini coefficient is worse than all of the OECD nations except Chile.

The NWC is a 36-member council filled with business lobbyists, ruling party members and government-controlled NTUC unionists. There is no worker representative in the NWC as the NTUC is controlled by the government whose part-time MPs have wide-reaching corporate interests with their full-time directorships in the private sector. Conflict of interests is a legalised corruption in Singapore and widely-practiced by ruling party members in the dictatorship regime.