10 Policy Changes in Singapore you should know about
As Parliament takes a prorogue to take stock of how it has done mid-term, Five Stars and a Moon has a look at some of the major policy changes this country has undergone since the 2011 General Elections.
Here are some changes that perhaps even you didn’t think would see the light of day:
Death sentence amendments
On 9 July 2012, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs Mr Teo Chee Hean and the Minister for Law Mr K Shanmugam respectively announced changes to the application of the mandatory death penalty to certain drug-related and homicide offences.
Previously, the death sentence was mandatory. With the changes, the Judge now has the power to decide on punishment.
In short, it is a type of minimum wage. Instead of blanket minimum wage, the country is trying this out by sector, starting with the cleaning industry. Employers must pay a base minimum and create for a career progression ladder for the employee before he is granted a licence to do his business.
The Labour Movement has been doing ground work, engaging employers and selling the policy into companies before it gets turned into legislation.
To prevent companies from forming foreigner enclaves in their offices, MOM wants them to not just adhere to Singaporean/foreigner ratio, but also have them prove they need foreign talent. Before Employment Pass will be given, the company has to prove via extended advertising, that the position cannot be filled locally.
To control the prices of public housing, HDB is building an average of 32,000 units per year. The result is a stability of prices and better affordability (as demonstrated in the Prime Minister’s 2013 National Day Rally).
The Protection from Harassment Bill will provide a range of self-help measures, civil remedies and criminal sanctions to better protect people from harassment and related anti-social behaviour. It covers workplace harassment, cyber harassment, sexual harassment and stalking.
Medishield is a low-cost, basic insurance scheme designed to pay for large subsidised medical bills. It is currently limited to 92 years of age. With Medishield Life, the insurance plan covers you for, well… life. It will provide basic protection to ALL Singaporeans and protect us from large hospital bills, even if there are pre-existing conditions. Even those without enough funds in CPF (like housewives, self-employed etc) will enjoy protection.
T-Score used in PSLE will be scrapped. The purpose for this is to reduce stress on young children, to make PSLE less of a high-stakes examination.
Changes to the Employment Act
A slew of changes to the Employment Act means that more workers will be protected. This includes protection accorded to: over time pay, sick leave benefits and protection against unfair dismissal.
The penalty for failure to pay salary will also be raised. First time offences will be liable to a fine of btw $3k and $15k and/or 6 months jail. Employment inspectors will be granted the power to arrest any person whim he reasonably believes is guilty of the failure to pay salary. They will be allowed to enter any workplace to conduct checks.
The country is clear about designing more welfare into the system and strengthening social safety nets. Government ministers have released a multitude of speeches, here are some examples:
PM Lee, 28th July 2013 – Strengthening national safety nets and reviewing policies to help vulnerable groups more.
Minister Tharman, 24th August 2013 – Tharman explains how Gov plans to pay for and sustain stronger social safety nets. “As we intervene boldly, we will ensure that our policies can be funded and sustained well into our children’s future”
Goh Chock Tong, 8th April 2014 – Set up a social review committee that can help identify and tackle social challenges facing Singapore
Lim Swee Say/NTUC, 3rd September 2013 – Working towards raising salaries for low wage workers and helping more Singaporeans come on board the social safety net, including freelancers, the self employed, taxi drivers, contract workers and others who may not be able to save enough in their CPF.
The $8b Pioneer Generation Package and the Jubilee Baby gift package are bold examples of how the country is trying out various forms of welfare. Various policies have also been changed, making it easier to get welfare/assistance, easier to apply for a Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) card, extended coverage for choronic disease from Medisave, children’s education and a multitude of assistance for citizens.
The direction since day 1 of modern Singapore has been centred fervently on creating jobs and homes for Singaporeans. Today, with jobs and homes more or less secured, our policies have been tweaked for better job security, better homes, better lifestyles, better jobs, better pay and definitely better work-life balance.