3 key areas to uplift lower-wage workers: Tan See Leng

Earlier this week (Mar 29), Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng spoke at a symposium organised by the NUS Social Service Research Centre. 

Titled “In-Work Poverty and the Challenges of Getting By Among the Young”, the symposium explored the challenges faced by lower-wage workers aged 21 to 40 who fall through the cracks as policies tend to target poorer seniors and the unemployed. 

Acknowledging these challenges, Minister Tan reiterated the PAP’s commitment to uplift all lower-wage workers and highlighted three key areas to strengthen support for the young working poor.

“In creating an inclusive labour market with abundant opportunities, we will press on with efforts to uplift and strengthen support for lower-wage workers in three key areas, namely the Progressive Wage approach, Workfare and protections for platform workers.”

A uniquely Singapore approach to uplift lower-wage workers 

A simplistic approach to support lower-wage workers is to implement a minimum wage. 

While those who call for such actions do so with good intentions, the reality is that such a move does not help workers in the long run since it ends up disrupting the labour market. 

For that reason, the PAP aims to promote more targeted and sustainable solutions to boosting income, as illustrated by the Progressive Wage Approach and Workfare measures. 

As Minister Tan shared, the Progressive Wages and Workfare measures are two key pillars of the Government’s support to uplift wages and provide career pathways for lower-wage workers. 

Under the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), workers in cleaning, security, landscape, lift and escalator, retail, and food services sectors will see their wages rise in tandem with training and improvements in productivity and skills.

In addition, the Government has launched a Progressive Wage Mark accreditation scheme to incentivise and recognise employers that pay progressive wages to workers. 

Next, the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) provides additional cash and CPF payments to eligible workers to boost their income and retirement savings. 

Meanwhile, the Workfare Skills Support (WSS) scheme supports lower-wage workers to upskill and improve their employability by providing workers with a training allowance. 

Recognising the difficulties of younger lower-wage workers, the Government has lowered the eligibility age of the WIS and WSS schemes from 35 to 30 years old, said Minister Tan.

So, have these schemes yielded results? 

“Last year, the real income of a low-wage worker grew by 4.7 per cent, faster than the median worker at 2 per cent.”

Strengthening protection for platform workers

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Besides PWM and Workfare, Minister Tan shared that the Government has also been working to strengthen protection for platform workers due to the precarious nature of their work. 

As highlighted in the Ministry of Manpower’s Committee of Supply debate this year, platform workers will soon be eligible for compensation for workplace injuries and Central Provident Fund (CPF) payments. 

“With these efforts underway, we hope platform workers will feel more assured and supported,” said Minister Tan. 

Ending his speech, Minister Tan called on younger Singaporeans to seize new opportunities and take charge of their careers.

After all, training enables one to find good jobs, which leads to higher wages and better work prospects and conditions. 

The Government has invested heavily in equipping Singaporeans with new skill sets for the future and will continue to do so.

“Rest assured, the Ministry of Manpower will journey with you through these uncertain times ahead every step of the way.”

And with these words, we can feel secure in knowing that we have a competent Government that can be trusted to help lower-paid Singaporeans take advantage of new opportunities and improve their job prospects and earnings.


Photo Source: MOM/Koh Poh Koon/Tan See Leng via Facebook