Mr. Tan, 67, reflects on his thoughts about the Budget.
I am a retiree, and today I work as a cleaner. Why? Partly because of boredom, partly because of the extra money. I can very well survive without the extra money. In any event I am lucky to have three very filial children who give me some money every month that is more than enough for me to get by.
Just the other day I read in the news the government was implementing some new wage credit scheme (“WCS”) – I think this is good for my employers, hopefully they’ll raise my pay.
I am sad that I cannot say the same for my friends and colleagues around my age doing what I do. My friends depend on children’s contributions to survive, some of them have very undutiful children who refuse to take care of them, or give excuses not to take care of them. They are left to their own means, their social workers do so much and they can and must ultimately depend on themselves.
You see my friends and colleagues every other day. The elderly man cycling with an inordinate amount of cardboard boxes on his bicycle, or the lady old enough to be your grandmother asking you for your empty soft drink can at the kopitiam. They are people who work two jobs to make ends meet, one shift of cleaning work and one shift doing odd jobs. Let me tell you, if you think otherwise, this is not a fun way to spend the last stretch of your life.
Yes, there is Workfare for those who are keen to work, but how many cleaners does this country need? How about my buddies who just do odd-jobs? They don’t qualify for Workfare. It doesn’t mean they can’t work, some are just not qualified in any kind of skill at all. I don’t want to argue if it’s their fault or not, but society can’t just let them be can they?
Sometimes you will have a more generous boss who will give you generous bonuses and increase your salary because he is appreciative of you. Sometimes you will have a stingy boss more concerned with profit than improving the lives of his staff. Surely our policies can be geared towards making employers share more of their profit?
We are not slaves at the end of the day, surely some welfare is not out of order? Me, I am lucky. If I am unhappy with my boss, I will fire him and go home and drink my coffee, but my younger friends cannot do the same.
To end off, I think it is at junctures like this that I wish we could go back to the 1960s where people firmly believed in the use of workers’ unions and understood the work of unions in the first place.
Maybe it is time for the unions to make a little noise.