Don’t offer foreign workers as scapegoats for our income disparity problems

By Irene Choo

TODAY’s headline “Foreign worker curbs to reduce income disparity” is not only misleading, it severely under-estimates the intricacy and scope of widening income gap between the rich and poor in our society.

While we applaud the tightening of foreign workers policies to reduce blue collar labour competition, we are sceptical about its effectiveness in creating better job opportunities and improved wages in the lower end in the absence of a minimum wage law.

Even if it helps to raise our wage floor, how will it improve the salary for the overall work force and end the deepening income inequality where the rich get richer and poor get poorer?

The influx of low skilled foreign workers is not the root cause of our staggering economic inequality, and neither would the curb help to combat the problem of income disparity.

It is naïve to think that income disparity can be resolved solely by cubing inflow of low-waged foreign workers.  The recent developments in the West have clearly shown that even with the minimum wage law or by raising wage floor, a massive income gap will remain if we ignore the opposite end of the wage ladder.

The current movement in the developed countries from Switzerland to US is towards Maximum Wage Policy, to put a cap in the maximum pay-out for top executives or limit the ratio between the CEO and lowest/average workers’ salary. Such policy allows top executives to continue to enjoy rising wages, while ensuring the fruits of economic growth are shared proportionately among the workers.

Hence, please stop blaming low-waged migrant workers as the root cause for our high Gini coefficient.  Many toiled, sweat and bled to help build our city for such meagre salary that no local workers would risk to accept.  Let us stop pretending that curbing the inflow of these workers will adequately and effectively resolve our nation’s income disparity problems.