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WP: S’poreans must be able to compete for jobs with foreigners on level playing field

In its May Day message (1 May), the Workers’ Party (WP) calls for more support for all Singaporean workers, including older PMETs.

In particular, WP noted that Singaporean PMETs are facing renewed competition from mid-skilled foreign workers, with the number of foreign S Pass holders growing by 11,100 in 2018.

“This coincided with an overall increase in the foreign workforce, reversing a decline in 2017,” WP added.

“PMETs face a myriad of challenges: 76% of all locals retrenched last year were PMETs. Only 63% of the retrenched found work within six months. The situation was worse for older PMETs. Almost 68% of all retrenched workers were 40 and older.”

Currently, there are over 1.2 million PMETs in Singapore. They now make up more than half of Singapore’s resident workforce.

“By 2030, two out of every three workers will be PMETs,” WP said.

Even though some of the retrenched PMETs may have found work later, they may be “under-employed” resulting in getting a lower salary than before, which affects their quality of life. Indeed, stories abound with many retrenched Singaporean PMETs unable to find a proper job, ended up driving Grab which earns them $2-3K a month, much lower than what they used to draw.

“Underemployed persons experience low morale, insecurity about their job and income, and difficulties in meeting daily expenses,” WP commented.

WP’s proposal

WP went on to propose 4 ways to support Singaporean workers.

WP said, “First, Singaporeans must be able to compete for jobs with foreigners on a level playing field. All Employment Pass and S Pass applicants should be subject to an Education Credential Assessment to ensure that their certificates are genuine. Enforcement of salary floors for EPs and SPs should be stringent.”

Indeed, time and time again, employers are caught taking back part of the salary in cash from foreign workers, in an attempt to cheat the system by declaring a higher salary for their foreign workers to MOM so as to get a work pass.

WP continued, “Second, the retirement age should be abolished, so that productive seniors who wish to continue working can do so without hindrance. The government should also explore how businesses, especially SMEs, can be further incentivised to hire older Singaporean workers.”

Thirdly, WP asked that the social safety nets be enhanced to support the retrenched and unemployed workers.

“WP has proposed in Parliament a Redundancy Insurance scheme which will reduce the financial pressure on workers who are retrenched while they look for new work, minimise insecurity and worry among employed Singaporeans, and complement existing programmes for re-training and re-employment of workers,” it said.

Lastly, WP criticised that underemployment should not be measured by counting only part-timers who wish to work more hours or full time.

“It should also factor in skills and income mismatches with workers’ qualifications. This will help policymakers better understand how underemployment is affecting different segments of society, to better formulate policy solutions,” WP commented.

“The economic disruptions that many workers face are not unique to Singapore. Governments around the world ignore workers’ grievances at their peril. The Workers’ Party wants Singapore to remain an open, global, trading nation, but one which fiercely protects the welfare of Singaporean workers, including PMETs. This is the only way to foster the social solidarity that is so vital for a strong and united Singapore.”