YPAP budget forum: Not much sense?

by Leong Sze Hian

Panelists Dr Tan Khee Giap, Chris De Souza and Desmond Foo

I refer to the remarks made at the YPAP budget forum “Working to win in Singapore’s economy ahead”.

“No Singaporean who wants a job will be denied work”?

One of the panelist, Dr Tan Khee Giap claimed that no Singaporean who wants a job “will be denied work”.

According to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Singapore Workforce 2010 Report, Service and Sales workers had the highest unemployment rate of 5.5 per cent, among all categories of workers.

So, does this mean that even locals who worked as “waiters, waitresses, chambermaids”, and lost their jobs, had difficulty getting re-employed in these same jobs?

Why? To what extent has our liberal foreign worker policies contributed to this?

Count job rejections?

Dr Tan also suggested, “The authorities (should) publish a quarterly report to note how many times the worker was referred a job, and monitor how many times the particular worker rejected it.”

Comparing the MOM’s Job Vacancies 2009 and 2010 Reports, the 25th percentile gross wage of waiters decreased from $930 to $879.

So, if Dr Tan is retrenched, and is offered a job as a waiter, would he take it?

If he keeps rejecting job offers as a waiter, wouldn’t he be not helping in regard to his own remarks – “if you do that (count job rejections) the unemployment rate can be reduced to one per cent”?

“Nanny state” Budget?

I find it somewhat odd to cite the 2008 and 2009 special transfers statistics to support the statement that “the 2011 Budget is not a General Elections Budget but rather a ‘Nanny State Budget'”.

Weren’t these Singapore’s worst recession years, and therefore may have had exceptional spending in special transfers to help Singaporeans?

Why not give us the amounts for the other “normal” years, like 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010, etc?

WIS

As to his claims that “the Workfare Income Supplement scheme (WIS) is good enough”, it only applies to those age 35 and above.

What about the about one in eight workers who earn not more than $1,000, according to the Census 2010 Report, and the 400,100 workers who earn not more than $1,200, according to the MOM’s Report on Labour Force in Singapore 2010, who are below 35 years old?

Foreign worker levy

As to the statement that foreign worker levies are rechanneled to government training programmer such as E2i (Employment and Employability Institute) and SPUR (Skills Programme for Upgrading and
Resilience), SPUR was a once-off measure during the last recession, and total government training programmes’ spending has been but a fraction of the billions of foreign worker levies collected.

Helping children?

With regard to Desmond Choo’s reply on whether the Budget helps to provide for couples with children, that children up to six years old will get $300 to $400 each, how much help is a few hundred dollars?

Mr Choo said “the issue is whether we are investing enough per child, i.e. quality time and so on”. 579,864 resident workers or about 31 per cent of all resident workers, worked at least 50 hours (228,856, 73,761, 134,716 and 142,551 worked between 50-54, 55-59, 60-64 and 65 hours and over).

So, some may not have much “quality time” left to spend with their children!

Foreign talent?

As for Mr Choo’s response to the issue of the foreign talent policy, that “Singaporeans should focus instead on how to ‘future-proof’ themselves”, through continual skills upgrading, how do Singaporeans compete with much more educated, qualified and experienced foreigners who are prepared to work for much less pay than Singapreans?

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