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Workfare so much better than minimum wage: PM Lee Hsien Loong  

2012-09-16 12:14:37|  分类: SQ: Selfless Quo |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Nov 29, 2010 By Cai Haoxiang: SINGAPORE has something better than a minimum wage and it is called Workfare, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday, in his first public remarks on the issue of whether there should be a minimum wage in Singapore.

He said the Workfare Income Supplement scheme is more effective at helping low-income Singaporeans as it is more targeted, and is funded by the Government instead of the employer.

'People say, why not have a minimum wage in Singapore? Actually, we have something better than the minimum wage, we have Workfare,' he said at the 31st PAP party conference yesterday.

'With the minimum wage, we put the burden on the employer. He has to pay extra, so instead of encouraging the employer to hire more low-income workers, you are discouraging him from hiring workers and the result is not going to be what we want[1],' he said, as he highlighted the minimum wage's tendency to increase unemployment.

The Government has spent a total of $1.65 billion in the last five years, or $400 million a year, to help 400,000 low-income workers, he noted. Workfare started as a pilot scheme in 2006 and was institutionalized in 2007.

The scheme gives cash and Central Provident Fund monies to Singaporeans aged 35 and above who earn up to $1,700[2] monthly - roughly the 30th percentile of wage-earners here. A 65-year-old earning $1,000 a month will get the maximum payout of $2,800 a year, of which $800 will be in cash and $2,000 will go into his CPF account. The self-employed get up to $1,833 a year in their Medisave accounts.

The debate on whether to legislate a minimum wage in Singapore resurfaced in recent months after lawmakers in Hong Kong passed such a law in July.

Academics and politicians have weighed in on both sides of the issue in the media and other public fora. Proponents say it will improve the lot of low-income Singaporeans who have suffered from the influx of cheap foreign labor, while critics say it is difficult to implement and locals will lose out if wages are set too high and jobs move abroad[3].

In his speech, Mr Lee listed other measures, in addition to Workfare, that the Government has introduced to help low-income Singaporeans. These include an Additional Housing Grant[4] of up to $40,000 for low-income households, over and above the market subsidy for flats and existing grants of up to $40,000 to buy new and resale flats.

Mr Lee also highlighted the three-year, $190 million Workfare Training Support (WTS) scheme that gives low-wage workers cash grants and course fee support, to encourage them to go for training and be equipped with skills to get better jobs. Mr Lee also mentioned the three 'M's that underpin Singapore's health care system - Medisave, MediShield and Medifund - to help poor families afford[5] good medical care.

He said that Singapore's health care social safety net works so well that there are very few[6] residents who come to MPs' Meet-the-People sessions seeking help to pay their medical bills. 'When they do come, we are usually able to solve their problems,' he added.

Mr Lee also cited hardship fund ComCare, which grassroots leaders tap on to help needy residents. PM Lee emphasized that there is no shortage of schemes to help needy Singaporeans, as long as they are willing to help themselves upgrade.

Singapore remembers the people at the margins[7], he said, whether they are from low-income groups, or are people whose household income places them just beyond qualifying for subsidized government flats.

'But most help must go to those[8] who are most in need,' he said[9].



[1] What we want – What PAP want is for the rich to make big fat profits at the expensive of the average workers. In the production of goods, it is always a question of how the economic pie is shared by three parties. These three parties are the employer, the government and the employees. PAP had often declared that their Union Chief who is a PAP stalwart oversees the tripartite system had ensured the affairs of the employees shall be protected. In actual fact, it has never the case. The share of the economic pie had gone so far against the employees until the Gini’s coefficient now stood at 0.472 – a level which is heavily loop-sided favoring the rich.

[2] This should be the base reference for the minimum wage which the government bench-marked as earnings that is short of the minimum subsistence level.

[3] Jobs had long moved out since the property land costs had gone up since the early 1990. Just take spin in Tuas industrial estate and you will see almost half the factories are not producing anything but being used as warehouse or scrap collection centers.

[4] Or Additional CPF Housing Grant introduced in 2006 have two enhancement features as follows: 1) Maximum AHG amount is increased from $30,000 to $40,000, 2) Income ceiling is raised from $4,000 to $5,000.

[5] How can the poor afford good medical care when the fees charged by the government hospitals had gone up by a factor of more than three times since 1990? Basic medical consultant fees plus medication charged by the General Practitioners or private clinics had doubled from about $24 per visit to $54 per visit. 

[6] The MP simply referred these requests to the Social Medical Worker who were all taught not to give out medical assistance based on the strict criteria of eligibility. Yati wrote to the PM Lee Hsien Loong directly but was directed downwards to Bukit Panjang MP, Dr Teo Ho Pin who then throw her case back to the Social Medical Worker. At the end of it, she did not get a single cent of assistance.

[7] Please visit one of the houses for the destitute. You will cry to see how unkind they were being treated so much so that no able person wants to get in there.

[8] He actually meant the rich are most in need. Otherwise, the Gini’s coefficient would not have reached a value of 0.472.

[9] The entire message was full of LQ where half the statements were truncated.

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