The Great Divide in Wages


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“Professor Lim Chong Yah responded on Thursday to critics who have dismissed his radical wage reform plan as unworkable.

He gave a stout defence of his ideas, which have sparked a debate in the business, economics and trade union circles.”

‘We need people to support that we need restructuring if we want a better society. If we want a society where we depend on our neighbours for cheap labour, well… some people like it. I don’t like it.’


Let’s round off our population figures. We have about 3 million citizens with about 2 million foreigners – PRs or FTs. In other words nearly half of our population are foreigners.

We are just a little piece of rock 700 sq km with no hinterland but surrounded by third world developing countries. There is abundance of cheap foreign labour to feed our economy.

We may be one of the world’s most expensive city to live in the league of London, New York or Tokyo but the locals do not command that kind of pay in those places. We have the highest gini coefficient income disparity in the developed countries – second only to Hong Kong.

We may have GDP growing at 14% last year but did it bring any real benefits in terms of wage increase? In fact our pay remains stagnant.

Speaking for myself, I did not have any pay increase since year 2000. It’s almost 12 years without any pay increase yet we are made to work longer hours, multi-tasked and reduced CPF at one time due to SARs.

Prices of everything have gone up. Coffee was $0.60 now it’s $0.90 per cup. A bowl of mee now costs $3 or $3.50 which used to be $2 or $2.50. Water bill used to be less than $100 now it’s easily $150. Every year electricity tariffs and transport costs keep going up. School fees also go up. I can go on and go to tell you why my stagnant pay is not catching up with rising costs.

A majority of Singaporeans are feeling the pain of rising costs. The govt just pay lip service and trying to downplay everything in the guise of globalisation.

This vicious cycle of depressing wages coupled with rising costs is really the result of opening up the floodgates to cheap foreign labour easily available in our neighboring countries.

The government wants low-cost labour to support the real-estate industry amongst others. The real-estate industry in Singapore employs a huge proportion of foreign labour: the Banglas, China workers etc. The real estate tycoons in Capitaland, Mapletree, DBS Land, AsiaMall etc – are Temasek or GLCs. So, cheap foreign labour is good for real estate developers, but terrible for wages and social safety and social cohesion.

Unskilled foreign workforce is the main reason to depress the lower income workers.

Productivity went backward as stated by Professor Lim i.e. Petrol stations re-introduce LOW skilled HAND car wash service & manual petrol fill are typical examples. Whereas we still had auto car wash & self service petrol service stations a decade ago!

This is living proof of wrong policy encourages WRONG business practices.

Our local economy is almost totally dominated by GLCs, NTUCs or statutory boards. Every where be it PSA, Changi airport, neighourhood malls or supermarkets, transport operators, construction and even re-structured hospitals or polyclinics they are all staffed with FTs.

This government is so dependent on cheap foreign workers that they keep importing more to feed all sectors of the economy to grow the GDP without benefiting the citizens. In fact the locals are marginalized by those FTs.

It’s a happy situation for the government and those GICs. The former rakes in more revenues with levies whilst the latter got cheap labour to run their businesses!

It’s good for the businesses and government but at the expense of citizens’ misery. So much social problems as a consequent resulting in our social infrastructure breaking down. Already we are one of the highest population density in the world surpassing even Hong Kong only behind Macau.

Corporate greed and a government blinded to more levies, revenue and GDP growth without really benefiting the citizens. That is the crux of the matter.

Professor Lim is a renowned economic academic. Is he talking rubbish? Is he scoring any political point? Why should he? He can just be politically correct by shutting up!

He is in his mid 70s and from the establishment. He is just one of those intellectuals whose conscience is pricked. He is coming out to the open to tell this government that something is not right. As a concerned citizen he is pointing it out to them just like Ngiam Tong Dow and Professor Tommy Koh that the current state of affairs will create social instability and upheaval.

The ruling regime is still in a state of euphoria greatly addicted to cheap abundant labour without realizing its folly and consequences!

We are indeed in deep shit and in a big mess. We are falling into the abyss. Ngiam may be right to say that we may be too late if those elites are still in their stupor on denial mood!

We have lost precious time in creating our own core of native skilled craftsmen and homegrown enterprises in the likes of Taiwanese HTCs, Acer, Asus or Korean Samsung, LG and Hyundai.

We started in the early 70s in the same league as Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. They didn’t open the floodgates to cheap foreign labour yet they surpassed us in all sectors even in the areas of human rights and dignity. Their people got more space for expressions than us.

They did not social engineer and structure their society into an elitist society of paper generals and scholars discouraging their brilliant young men and women into private ventures and enterprises.

Our whole society is programmed to beat the exams system to get straight As so that they could end up with a top government or GLC post. The rest of their working life will be secured with an iron rice bowl. That is the mindset of our brilliant minds. Their brilliance is used to conjure up more schemes in the like of COEs, ERPs, Tariffs such as half tank rule etc which cannot be found elsewhere but only here in Sg!

As a people, we are never innovative. We never produce our own home grown world class brands or products even though we are amongst the third richest country in the world. We pale in comparison to others even as we boast of our number of straight As students.

We are a nation of kiasu, kiasi and self centered people as a result of this government’s revenue generating addiction. Imagine using your own CPF money to pay for your own medical bills also need to pay for admin charges? That is an example of a brilliant government’s skill in squeezing it’s people from all angles and corners! Without real production with just a piece of paper this government could even make much more money than the car manufacturers having invested in years of R&D by just issuing paper COEs! No other place in the world can you find this except here.

I merely speak the facts. You judge for yourself. The more I reveal the more that this government seems incompetent and NOT worth the millions we are paying them.

We pay them to exploit us by depressing our wages to third world standards when we are considered first world economy recognized as the third richest country in the world? That is the kind of wretched life the commoners are living in this prosperous country.

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6 Responses to The Great Divide in Wages

  1. Pingback: Daily SG: 17 Apr 2012 « The Singapore Daily

  2. Founding Father says:

    Vote for PAP for 30% salary increase in 10 years. So if you earn $1000 now in 2022 you will be earning $1300. See what a generous and inclusive government we are. Merdeka

  3. Padaly says:

    Thks for your comment. Cheers.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi Padaly,
    You really got it off your chest. $1 for you $1000 for me: )


  5. redbean says:

    Hi Padaly,

    You really got it off our chest. $1 for you, $1000 for me: )

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