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Jack Sim makes the case for paying Singaporeans a higher wage for construction jobs

Mr Sim is seeking to dispel the notion that foreign labour is much needed in Singapore and that Singaporeans have no desire to work construction jobs

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Singapore—Jack Sim, who made a name for himself as the founder of the World Toilet Organization, made a case for paying Singaporeans a higher wage for construction jobs in a lengthy post on Facebook on Monday night (May 25), which has since been widely shared.

Mr Sim sought to dispel the myth that “cheap unskilled or semi-skilled” foreign labour is needed in Singapore and that Singaporeans have no desire to work construction jobs.

Additionally, he pointed out that now is the best time to draw Singaporeans to jobs in construction, which will mean making it more attractive through incentives such as higher pay, because of high unemployment numbers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Why paying Singaporeans a higher wage in construction jobs is good for Singapore.For the longest time, there was a…

Posted by Jack Sim on Monday, May 25, 2020

Mr Sim, who worked in the construction industry in the first part of his career, noted that the master craftsmen who used to be part of Singapore’s construction landscape are no longer around. He specifically meant local master craftsmen as well as those from Shanghai and Malaysia, and those from Thailand, Japan, and Korea who later replaced them.

The current workers, recruited from India and Bangladesh, are not skilled, as they were farmers and fishermen in their own country who have no experience in construction.

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This affected the productivity of Singapore Construction workers, he wrote.

“That was when Singapore Construction workers’ productivity suddenly took a dive and did not change until today. To make it worse, the government started a Man-year entitlement system which charges a big levy per worker paid to the government. With this ever-increasing levy, transport and expensive dormitory costs, cheap labor is not cheap.”

Next, Mr Sim dispelled the myth that having a Singaporean workforce in the construction sector would drive housing prices up as well as the myth that migrant labour is beneficial to the economy.

On the latter point, he said that when Singaporeans are paid well what they earn goes back into the economy, while the salary of foreign workers, on the other hand, is poured back into their home countries, which means there is no gain for Singapore.

Furthermore, he writes that foreign workers are a stress on the country’s resources, including the “water supply, infrastructures, land, and transport system,” adding that “Tensions can occur as seen in health outbreak situations like Covid-19.”

Mr Sim also pointed out the high cost of raising standards for migrant workers, for transportation, housing, and even nutrition and health.

“If we remove the current double standards, eventually we need to add these costs to the total foreign labor costs calculation. If we price the externalities (sic) in total, I am sure we would be better off reducing the number of foreign labor (sic) and replacing them with locals.”

In contrast, this would not need to be done for the local workforce, he wrote, adding, “Japan, Finland Australia, and Hong Kong use locals for construction. If they can do it, we can do it.”

He also dispelled other myths, such as “Construction means working under the hot sun,” and that the “Image of a Construction worker is Negative.”

Mr Sim also pointed out exploitative practices in hiring migrant labour, which, again, would be avoided with a local workforce.

He ended his post by expressing the hope for a “comprehensive redesign of the Construction Industry to create jobs for Singaporeans.”

“I am certain higher pay, better safety, and improve (sic) image will attract more guys and girls into this industry.

The first important thing is to change the mindset in (sic) our decision-makers that we can localize a good portion of the Construction workforce if we focus on respecting Craftsmanship, provide good pay and create (sic) Positive Image of the industry. 

Covid-19 offers us the opportunity to transform our Construction workforce into a highly-skilled, highly automated and value add (sic) industry that have (sic) long term career growth.

Let’s make the change now and create lots of good jobs for Singaporeans.” —/TISG

Read also: Vice-Chairman Hazel Poa: PSP wants higher payouts for lower-wage earners and fewer foreign workers

Vice-Chairman Hazel Poa: PSP wants higher payouts for lower-wage earners and fewer foreign workers

 

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