Singapore—With the minimum wage issue hotly debated in Parliament recently, it comes as no surprise that remarks made by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on the issue two years ago are circulating online once more.
The Workers’ Party (WP) and other opposition parties have been proponents for imposing a minimum wage, while the Government has advocated for the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), which is based on the consensus of the tripartite alliance.
WP head and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh started the ball rolling on the issue with an Oct 12 Facebook post wherein he called a minimum wage “not just a moral imperative” but “an act of national solidarity…even more relevant in today’s economic environment.”
Two years ago, on Oct 26, 2018, while speaking at a panel discussion during the 30th anniversary of the Institute of Policy Studies 30th Anniversary conference at Marina Bay Sands, the Minister of Manpower said that implementing minimum wage would be too financially burdensome on employers and could lead to higher unemployment as well as low wage earners resorting to illegal employment.
Ms Teo said that in order to enforce minimum wage, employers would have to pay more for certain kinds of labour, effectively implementing a tax on employment that would affect low wage earners the most.
The Manpower Minister added, “Not all employers would want to employ workers at this rate, which could lead to lower levels of employment. To secure a job, some workers may even choose to work illegally below the minimum wage, which makes them even more vulnerable.”
The Minister of Manpower also said then that she believed the better answer is in seeing to it that wages grow sustainably, through processes such as the PWM.
“Unlike minimum wage which specifies a floor, PWM specifies a ladder. In fact, there are four inter-linked ladders for skills, jobs, productivity, and wages. A worker can be paid a higher wage on the basis of his improved skills, enlarged job or heightened productivity,” Ms. Teo explained. “The rungs of the ladder provide an upward path, so the worker is not stuck earning minimum wages.”
Netizens again brought up ministers’ high salaries, just as they had when Ms Teo first made these comments in 2018.
Another commented on the issue of foreign workers.
One netizen claimed to have a simple—though litigious—solution to Ms Teo’s premise that imposing a minimum wage could lead to lower levels of employment and workers turning to illegal jobs.