In a recent speech in Parliament, Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh compared the recent Budget announcements to the “New Deal” that was implemented by US President Franklin Roosevelt and asked for a thorough review of what a living wage in Singapore ought to be.
But first, what on earth is The New Deal?
Basically, it was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1939. It responded to needs for relief, reform, and recovery from the Great Depression. which brings us to the first issue we have with the New Deal.
1)We are not in the 1930s.
We are living in very different times. This is the exponential age brought about by the advancements in technology and what worked back in the 1930s might not necessarily work now. In the words of DPM Heng, one needs to be careful when relying on “ideological short cuts or labels” especially from different countries and eras without deeper thought on long-term repercussions.
2)We don’t want to be a welfare state
Implementing a living wage undermines competitiveness and also brings us closer to a welfare state. Australia’s minimum wage is about $20 an hour compared to the average of $7 in Singapore. Manpower costs make up a large part of costs for businesses and would be passed down to consumers. Having a welfare state often encourages economic inactivity or underactivity, which is something Singapore cannot afford to do.
3)We seriously have more important things to worry about daily than a living wage
Living wage or minimum wage is not what people need most now. What they are more concerned with is even holding down their jobs. Many sectors across Singapore have taken a hard hit and with manpower and overheads being major costs, efforts should be focused on solving these for businesses so that they can retain their workers.
The Jobs Support Scheme from the recent Solidarity Budget is meant to help employers do just that – retain their workers so that workers still have a livelihood.
Surely that is more important than a living wage?