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Prof Tommy Koh lauded by netizens for his progressive views on wages for low-income groups

During the round table discussion on wages in the ages of disruptions hosted by Straits Times, National University of Singapore Professor Dr Tommy Koh argued that the government's apparent resistance towards implementing a minimum wage in the Republic is rooted in "fake" ideological arguments.

The Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the Singapore government has always insisted that minimum wage produces unemployment. He added, “I would say, look at the experiences of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong - all of which have introduced minimum wage. there were no such consequences."

The hour long discussion also included Temasek Holdings chairman Mr Lim Boon Heng, NTUC assistant secretary-general and chair of the tripartite committees on the Progressive Wage Model Mr Zainal Sapari, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises Mr Kurt Wee, and co-founder of cleaning start-up Nimbus Mr Daniel Thong.

Declaring that the Highlighting that schemes such as the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) and the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) are not the same as a minimum wage, Prof Koh said “With great respect to both of you, the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) at the moment... is so modest that it has not elevated poor workers out of poverty”.

And in response the suggestion that the introduction go a minimum wage would adversely affect the local economy, Prof Koh said, "When we moved from a five-and-a-half-day to a five-day week, it had no negative impact on the competitiveness of the Singapore economy. And I dare predict that if we have a minimum wage, it will have no negative economic impact on our economy."

During the round table discussion, Prof Koh also emphasised that there are too many people in Singapore who do not earn a living wage. He said, "I aspire to a situation in which every working man and woman in Singapore can earn a living wage. What is a living wage? A living wage is a wage that enables the worker his or her family to live in dignity and in material sufficiency."

Netizens came out in agreement of Prof Koh’s vehement argument for the implementation of a minimum wage, echoing his point that a minimum wage will go far in helping many Singaporeans out of poverty:

Summing up his view, Prof Koh laid out three points on minimum wage.

  1. Singapore’s economic policy has always been ‘growth with equity’ and that all citizens should have a share in the country’s growing prosperity.
  2. We should be concerned about the extent of poverty in a nation as rich as Singapore (ranked 8th richest country in the world by the IMF) and find acceptable ways to reduce poverty
  3. There are too many people in Singapore who do not earn a living wage

The third point in particular seems to have resonated with netizens who agree with Prof Koh’s argument that a living wage is a major consideration for the implementation of a minimum wage.

Netizens also pointed out that the argument that a minimum wage will reduce Singapore’s competitiveness in the labour market is a weak one:

While other’s noted the irony of ministers arguing against a minimum wage when they receive high salaries themselves and probably haven’t experienced the hardships that low-income families in Singapore struggle with on a daily basis: