GE2020: Workers' Party's 39-page manifesto, summarised

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh said that there was a real risk of a 'wipeout' for the opposition this GE.

Julia Yeo | Andrew Koay | June 28, 2020, 07:16 PM

The Workers' Party (WP) manifesto for the 2020 General Election was launched on June 28, 2020.

The 39-page manifesto features 10 key proposals in five parts, revolving around topics such as inequality, supporting the local workforce and cost of living in Singapore.

'Make your vote count'

Party secretary-general Pritam Singh said to media that there was a "real risk of a wipeout" of elected opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) in the coming election, explaining the logic behind the party slogan for GE2020.

"The slogan calls into focus the overwhelming parliamentary supermajority held by the People's Action Party," Pritam said.

He added that opposition MPs need to be voted into Parliament to serve the public in Parliament and strengthen Singapore's democracy.

Proposed key policies to build dynamic local workforce

The Workers' Party (WP) shared in its manifesto the party's policies proposed to support Singapore's workforce, addressing several issues such as workplace discrimination and setting a national minimum wage.

Proposed a national minimum wage

The party proposed for all working Singaporeans to receive a minimum take-home wage of at least S$1,300 for full-time work and pro-rated for part-time work.

Citing more than 100,000 Singaporean full-time workers earning a take-home pay of less than S$1,300 per month, WP stated that it was below the wage of S$1,300 per month that an average four-person household in Singapore would need to spend monthly on basic necessities.

Called for abolishing of retirement age

To let Singaporeans work as long for as long as they are able and willing to, WP has called for the abolishing of the retirement age in Singapore.

On top of that, the party wants to legislate anti-discrimination measures to prevent unfair dismissal of employees due to age discrimination.

"This change would enable employers to assess employees based on their abilities and contributions, and ensure that they adopt non-discriminatory employment practices," the party wrote.

Address gender wage gap

Addressing gender discrimination issues, WP said that the issue not only affects women but has a trickle-down effect for the wider labour market and economy, reducing family income and perpetuate socioeconomic inequality.

The party has proposed for a requirement for employers with 10 or more employees to report to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) the gender pay gap for the same job description, and that companies should be given assistance to learn how to reduce the gender wage gap in their sector as well.

Other workforce policies

Other workforce policy proposals included in WP's manifesto included:

  • Recognising unpaid labour
  • Shared parental leave
  • Supporting re-entry of mothers into workforce, informal caregivers
  • Introducing redundancy insurance for retrenched workers
  • Legislation against discrimination of gender, race and age
  • Addressing under-employed workers
  • Tightening Employment Pass (EP) approvals

Housing reform

Under their proposals to reform housing in Singapore, WP is proposing a HDB buy-back scheme that would lessees against plummeting resale prices.

They also plan to lower the age that singles can apply for Built-to-Order (BTO) flats from 35 to 28.

“Our public housing policy should be delinked from the expectation that Singaporeans should get married before a particular age,” wrote the party.

WP also suggested that the ethnic integration policy (EIP) that maintains the proportionate ratio of residents across various ethnic groups in HDB estates had increased the difficulties for minorities wish to sell their flats.

This results in many minorities having to sell at discounted prices, wrote WP.

The solution to this, said the party, was to abolish the ethnic quota governing citizens' home ownership.

Regarding the cost of housing, WP called for HDB BTOs in non-mature estates to be pegged to household incomes.

“Prices should be based on a 20-year mortgage, 10 per cent down-payment, and monthly repayments of a maximum of 25 per cent of the median monthly household income.”

Additionally, WP posited that a discount should be offered to lower-income applicants of two-room and three-room flats.

Lowering the cost of living in Singapore

WP’s manifesto included a range of proposals to reduce other costs of living in Singapore, such as making medicine more affordable and widening the use of Medisave for those over 60.

The party also stated their opposition towards the government’s plans to increase Goods and Service Tax (GST) to 9 per cent.

“This tax hike will be yet another burden on hardworking families who are already struggling with the high cost of living in Singapore.”

To facilitate the discussion on GST, WP asked the government to release its revenue and expenditure projections for the upcoming decade.

Tackling the pandemic and thriving in post-Covid world

Regarding Covid-19, split their proposals into two categories, one to tackle the crisis, and the other to help Singapore navigate the post-Covid world.

Among their proposals for tackling the crisis, WP called for testing to be expanded and free vaccinations — when available — to be offered.

WP also suggested an improvement to government-backed credit schemes — which that said currently experienced low take-up rates despite the fact that many micro, small, and medium businesses faced an urgent cash flow crisis.

“For government loan schemes to provide emergency credit to SMEs during Covid, SMEs should be allowed to repay these loans when they return to profitability.”

To thrive in the post-Covid world, WP’s proposed developing domestic manufacturing capabilities for critical items.

These items included face masks, ventilators, diagnostic test machines, testing reagents, and other personal protective equipment.

The party’s plans also included:

  • Revising Singapore’s pandemic preparedness plans
  • Proactively gathering information overseas about disease outbreaks
  • Improving the living conditions in foreign worker dormitories
  • Building on digital gains made during the crisis
  • Nurturing a core of globally competitive local enterprises

Education reform

Increasing university admissions

When it comes to education, WP will be seeking to increase university admissions as a whole (to 50 per cent of each cohort), and also among students from underprivileged backgrounds and those with no family history of attending university.

The party wants to introduce targeted programmes to support such student.

"These programmes should commence at secondary school and include financial support to ensure that participants are not only admitted to universities but stay and complete their degrees," wrote WP.

Reducing class sizes

In their manifesto, WP also suggested that class sizes should be reduced to an average of 20. Currently, the average class size in primary and secondary schools is 29 and 34 respectively.

"This should be rolled out progressively," said the party.

Under this scheme, WP suggested that academically weaker students should be the first to benefit.

Other plans regarding education include:

  • Ensuring equitable funding for schools
  • Improving access to enrichment programmes for low-income children
  • Increasing the number of infant care centres
  • Extending fee and financial assistance to all preschools
  • Proposing a 10-year through-train option for primary and secondary schools
  • Introducing a SkillsFuture education loan
  • Introducing a new scheme that will see a cadre of teachers trained as both educators and social workers

Social policy proposals

WP's manifesto also had a section dedicated to inclusivity.

Their plans regarding this included increasing support for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), by introducing anti-discrimination legislation that specifically addresses them.

WP also suggested that the civil service should take the lead in employing PWDs where possible.

The party also reiterated their proposal to establish social protection steps pegged at 30 per cent, 50 per cent and 80 per cent of the annual median monthly household income per member.

Furthermore, the party said, a report measuring the progress for poverty mitigation and social mobility should be published annually.

Other proposals regarding social policies included:

  • Introducing a special dividend from GIC investments for CPF members
  • The equalisation of state benefits and housing options for single parents
  • Equalising childcare subsidies for all women, including home-makers
  • Fast-tracking naturalisation for foreign spouses on LTVP+
  • Reducing gambling opportunities

Abolishing GRCs, upholding accountability of governance institutions

Consistent with the party's manifesto in 2015, WP called for the abolishing of Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) and to be replaced by Single Member Constituencies (SMCs), citing the lack of evidence that Singaporeans still vote solely along racial lines.

"Continuing the GRC system may, in fact, reinforce that which it seeks to counter, as the existence of GRCs may be taken to signal that ethnic minority candidates are unelectable on their own," it said.

Other issues that the party raised included:

  • Safeguarding the independence of national institutions i.e. Close relatives and current or former party colleagues of political office holders should not be appointed to key positions in national institutions;
  • Reverting to the past system of having presidents appointed by Parliament, and transferring discretionary powers of President to an elected Senate;
  • Lowering voting age to 18

Top image via The Workers' Party/Facebook