Minimum wage has been a point of contention for many. The crux of this idea is to protect low-wage workers and guard exploitation by unscrupulous employers. It sounds like a simple, easy solution to compel all employers to comply with paying a minimum price salary.
In considering it’s feasibility, here’s a snapshot to guide us to what’s happening on the ground:
- I have encountered at least one individual who claims to be paid $300 a month for a full time cleaner job
- There exists elderly and transient workers who are paid only several hundred dollars for full time work. Actual numbers are difficult to tally; no one will declare these figures. However, these are usually small companies because any well sized one is under public and union scrutiny.
I’ve also spoken around with people who are both pro and anti minimum wage. Here are some of their thoughts:
- Many would lose their jobs as employers would start consolidating their manpower, making people work more
- Manpower becomes a commodity, companies might use the salary floor as a benchmark and are discouraged from paying more for better skills
- Inflation may rise as companies start transferring costs to the paying public
Malaysia has recently introduced a minimum wage of RM$900 – this will be interesting to study in a later to observe impact. Closer to our economy is Hong Kong: which has had introduced minimum wage (of HK$28 per hour, about S$5) for about a year now.
If you’re interested in a full-article of how Hong Kong has turned out, have a read at this link (http://www.timeout.com.hk/big-smog/features/50262/the-28-minimum-wage-one-year-on.html).
For those of you with much less time, I have condensed the article into point form for your easy reading:
- Hong Kong established minimum wage in 2011.
- There has been no increase in unemployment rates (though widely predicted)
- There has, however, been higher inflation. Since this is out of the ordinary, it is believed to be related to minimum wage
- Real impact affects the lowest paid industries: competition for workers has increased, because more are attracted to easier work and higher pay – such as security guards. Quote security guard Yu, “Even young people are looking to be a security guard… it is highly competitive in the industry these days”.
- Because of minimum wage induced inflation, the benefit of increased salaries neutralizes because goods now cost more
- Manpower has now become a problem. Since wages are now the same, people tend to flock to larger companies where there are more benefits over the wages.
- Workers now find their workload much heavier because companies now cut the number of workers.
There has to be more than minimum wage…
Rather than a minimum wage, I’d prefer the National Wages Council to keep a more watchful eye on exploitation of workers; transient or otherwise. Currently, another problem at hand is unrealistic salary expectation – if you are employer, chances are you have experienced this (frequently): Many people price their salaries on their age rather than their experiences, skills or abilities.
I sincerely wish that NWC actively promote, take action and consider perhaps setting up whistle-blower channels to alert industry, public and unions about employers who are exploiting manpower.
Minimum Wage, I am inclined to believe, is not necessary. If you weigh the pros and cons, this blanket policy is an easy way out. It is more of a populist tool to win votes rather than a genuine interest in helping others. There are far better ways to protect the interests of a few, rather than a blanket policy that will affect all.
Article 23 of the Declaration of Human Rights states that:
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
And this… is what I would support: a flourishing economy, a wide range of jobs, more choices, more opportunities to fulfill ambitions and to keep unemployment rate low. I want to see a society that cultivates more successful, intelligent, thinking Singaporeans who command good salaries.
We are people, we are proud of what we do, we have value.
We are not commodities on sale.
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