Josephine Teo: New workgroup set up to help raise income of lower-wage earners

She said the concerns of these workers should not be treated "lightly" or "academically" as their families depend on them.

Kayla Wong | October 11, 2020, 10:32 PM

A new Tripartite Workgroup will be formed to study how to raise the wages of lower wage workers workers, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo announced in a Facebook post on Sunday evening, Oct. 11.

Teo, secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Ng Chee Meng and Singapore National Employers Federation President Robert Yap initiated the formation of the workgroup over their breakfast discussion earlier in the morning.

Teo: Must not treat concerns of low-income workers "lightly" or "academically"

In her post, Teo said that the trio want to expand the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) to "cover more workers while protecting their employability".

"Their families depend on them, and we must not take this concern lightly or treat it academically," she said.

She added that this is especially because the availability and nature of work is going through "deep change at all levels".

Hence, the aim of the workgroup is to examine the issues holistically and refresh the consensus on what will work best for workers and businesses in Singapore. 

Much progress made to uplift lower-wage workers

Teo said since Workfare was introduced in 2007, tripartite partners have found various ways to uplift lower-wage workers.

Much progress has been made, she said, adding that rapid wage growth in the last five years has been supported by the PWM, which "sustainably" raises wages of workers in some sectors in tandem with productivity".

Workgroup will help workers emerge stronger from Covid-19

She also said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat shared with the three of them that a Tripartite Workgroup will be especially beneficial for lower-wage workers now, given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

They agreed with Heng that the workgroup will bring key stakeholders together to "refresh the consensus on what will work best for our workers and businesses".

As Singapore works towards economic recovery, this is also a good time to "ensure our lower-wage workers too can emerge stronger from the crisis brought about by Covid-19", she said.

Teo added that they will proceed to discuss the idea of the task force with their respective teams and "see how best" to get the workgroup going soon.

Ng: PWM helped bump up the wages of close to 80,000 workers

Making the same announcement on his Facebook page, Ng said the task force will also study how to push productivity growth, which includes expanding the PWM and partnering companies to raise productivity to "foster a win-win for employers and workers".

Close to 80,000 workers in the cleaning, landscape and security sectors have seen their incomes increase, since NTUC first mooted the PWM in 2012, Ng said.

He further said wages have been uplifted even more with efforts such as the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS).

Workgroup to study more ways to raise wages in sectors where it is harder to implement PWM

Besides pushing for "the development of mandatory PWMs in more sectors", the workgroup will also allow the study of other approaches in uplifting the wages and well-being of low-wage workers, Ng said.

Ng said that other approaches would include uplifting the wages through sectoral or occupational wage benchmarks for sectors, where it is more difficult to implement the PWM.

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Top image via Josephine Teo/Facebook