Some lower-income workers not included in Workfare
The following is an unpublished letter sent to the Straits Times on 22 Sept 2010.
Leong Sze Hian -
I refer to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) letter “Wages : Workfare’sthe long-term answer” (ST, Sep 22) in response to Professor Tommy Koh’s“basic pay : Tommy Koh weighs in” (ST, Sep 15).
Whilst Workfare does help to supplement the income of lower-incomeworkers, it excludes the following categories of lower-income workers:-
- those who are below 35 years old
- permanent residents (PRs)
- those who were only able to find work for less than 3 months in any 6-month period,
- some of the 84,400 unemployed residents in June, of whom about 16,500 had been out of work for more than 6 months
- low income self-employed persons who cannot afford to pay their CPF Medisave contribution. For example, a 44 year old earning $800 a month, may not have the disposable cash of $213 a year to contribute, in order to receive $660into his Medisave which he cannot use unless he needs medical treatment.
This same income worker if he is employed, will only get about $24 cash a month because about $59 of Workfare is credited to his CPF.
Can MOM give us the statistics on how many people earn less than $1,700 a month (which is the maximum income eligible for Workfare), $1,500 and $1,200, and how many of these do not get any Workfare because they fall into the excluded categories described above?
I have been doing financial counseling for the needy for many years, and often encounter lower income Singaporeans like cleaners and road sweepers who now earn only about $650 a month, or persons with disabilities who earn around $300 a month in a full-time job.
The primary difference between a minimum wage and Workfare, is that a minimum wage would apply to everyone, without excluding so many people.
Finally, a minimum wage will generally put more disposable cash in the hands of workers to help meet their living expenses, instead of Workfare whereby all (self-employed) or the bulk (76 per cent for employees) goes to CPF.