If you were part of the huge crowd attending the Workers’ Party Rally, you should have heard two arguments that would scare any rational voter:
1. Minimum wage to activate untapped labour force.
2. Benefits for those who are laid off.
First, who is usually the “untapped” labour force? A few categories should sum them up:
a) Those in transition (moving from one job to another, e.g. retiring from politics)
b) Those that try to find jobs above a certain level, but they cannot find said job because of the wrong skill set.
c) Those who choose to be unemployed, such as housewives, house husbands.
d) Those who actually have a job, but never declared.
Who does the WP intend to tap on? Let us see why a minimum wage fails for every category.
(a) Those in transition need to be job-matched faster, not look for a minimum wage.
(b) That is a skills mismatch. A minimum wage does nothing to engage them; skills upgrading does.
(c) If they choose to be unemployed, why would they return to the workforce for a minimum wage?
(d) They have a job. Minimum wage is not for these people.
Besides, current unemployment rates are at a low 2%. This is a rather dubious argument no matter how it is examined.
If anything, credit should instead go to MOM and NTUC for the progressive wage model, which pegs skills upgrading to improved wages.
Benefits for being laid off: the Workers’ Party calls it “employment security” and touts that, should someone be fired, he or she can get up to $9000 cash. That’s strange. Why is the WP not looking at preventing lay-offs instead? Surely the old adage “prevention is better than cure” extends beyond healthcare.
This policy hurts everyone rather than helps everyone. To the employers, the cost of labour will go up. In addition to contributing CPF contributions, they must contribute to another fund? This is a savings fund which is even more restrictive than the CPF! To the employees, this sounds “sexy”, but an unemployment security can simply be solved by saving a larger percentage of one’s salary per month. It is cutting down on profligate spending, not another fund, that will ensure that there is enough liquidity for a bad day.
Well, if it is so terrible, why did the WP champion these? This is yet another line of emotional rhetoric.
The WP plays on the sentiment that foreign PMEs steal local jobs and cause locals to be fired. Thus, the WP’s argument will go along a line like: by having security, even if you’re outcompeted, you’ll still survive. That is defeatist. What the right way should be: re-equip, retrain, outcompete the foreign PMEs both in Singapore and overseas.
Unfortunately the WP has not impressed me with their maiden rally speech. The crowds may be overwhelming, but I am not sure if they were particularly impressed.