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Former NUS professor in ST Forum: How can anyone survive on less than S$1,300?

“One should first consider how any one individual or family can survive on less than $1,300 a month when the cost of living in Singapore is notoriously high,” said Dr Ho Ting Fei

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Singapore—Nowadays it seems that ordinary Singaporeans and not just politicians who are weighing in on the minimum wage issue, which has been a much-discussed topic in Parliament and online especially after Leader of the Opposition and Workers’ Party head Pritam Singh called it “not just a moral imperative.”

Commenting on an endeavour from the Government that a workgroup to be formed to look into raising the salaries and well-being of low-income workers, he wrote, “This is far too long for Singaporeans who work outside these sectors. How long are they to wait?”

“What they could do is to consider a parallel endeavour that implements a universal minimum wage with S$1,300 as a base – and subject to regular review,” he added.

His fellow party members—including Jamus Lim, an Associate Professor in Economics; Leon Perera, Gerald Giam and Raeesah Khan are echoing the call for a minimum wage for the country’s lowest earners.

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And now, a former professor from the National University of Singapore has also spoken up on the minimum wage issue. In a piece published in The Straits Times Forum on October 20, Dr Ho Ting Fei said that defending the statistics and policies on why there should not be a minimum wage level should not be prioritized.

She wrote that instead, “one should first consider how any one individual or family can survive on less than $1,300 a month when the cost of living in Singapore is notoriously high.”

Dr Ho, a physician with more than 30 years of academic, teaching and research experience and more than 10 years of clinical experience treating children and adults, wrote that the 32,000 full-time workers mentioned in Parliament on October 15 who earn less than S$1,300 “urgently need help, and should not be tossed around as statistics whenever the topic of minimum wage is raised.”

Furthermore, she wrote, “$1,300 a month would not solve all their daily needs but it is a good start to give them some hope.”

Dr Ho added, “If we do not lift these 32,000 workers out of the pit of low wages, it is futile to talk about upgrading their skills.

If we cannot help them put food on the dinner table or provide for their basic needs, it is futile to talk about increasing productivity.”

She called on leaders to “be practical and realistic,” and to consider that the lower-wage workers are “our fellow Singaporeans who are poor and desperate” who should not be ignored regardless of how many or how few they are.

“The question is whether we give them the dignity and respect they deserve,” she added.

The issue has also been brought up by Singapore Democratic Party’s Min Cheong, Progress Singapore Party’s Brad Bowyer, and the Reform Party’s Charles Yeo, who have all expressed support for a minimum wage in the country.

Food guru and Makansutra founder Kf Seetoh also wrote a Facebook post on the issue that said,  “It’s cruel to pay a Singaporean $1,300 a mth in this most expensive city in the world era and expect them to be proud of it. Even my part timers earn more…If you cannot afford to pay $1,300 minimum flat out wage, please, I implore you, Don’t Be An Entrepreneur”.

—/TISG

Read also: KF Seetoh calls out PAP’s Edward Chia on minimum wage issue

KF Seetoh calls out PAP’s Edward Chia on minimum wage issue

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