Singapore’s greatest resource is, and always will be, our people.
Our nation was built on the hard work and sacrifice of all Common Singaporeans, from independence till the prosperous nation it is today.
I was a 50s child, and I saw these developments take place before my eyes.
Before all of today’s shiny skyscrapers and sprawling gardens, I saw how my parents struggled to afford rice despite working from morning till late into the night in the construction line and as hawkers.
Yet, they did the best they could so that my siblings and I had enough to eat every day.
Labour Day is the time we keep in mind the drive, industry and creativity of all Common Singaporean workers like them who defiantly stood tough against all hardships to build a better Singapore for us.
It is also a time that we ask where we are headed on our next lap.
Today, we are seeing an exodus of young Singaporeans turning to menial gig work to make ends meet, such as delivery riders and private-hire car drivers – respectable professions, though not sustainable for young Singaporeans in the long term.
One rider I spoke to said it is “the best option he has” to earn enough to make ends meet at this time.
He is a local polytechnic graduate.
Today, we are seeing record-high levels of local PMETs being retrenched compared to 10 years ago.
We also see how the number of foreign PMETs has surged in this same decade.
Social mobility – Singaporeans’ ability to move up the economic ladder – has hit rock bottom.
How did things come to this?
The government continues to build shiny, extravagant public buildings and make superfluous multi-million dollar political appointments using our tax monies.
Yet, Common Singaporean workers like our technicians and taxi drivers have to tighten our belts while kopitiam food prices go up by some 30 percent.
And we are told we need to pay more taxes.
This is not right.
To this, the SDA urges the government to curb the impending GST hike, improve the grooming of local talent who are not from the elite class, and implement tighter measures to ensure fair competition for Common Singaporeans in the job market.
(1) “No” to a GST hike
Singaporeans have pulled our country out of the Covid-19 pandemic, much as the government would like to claim the lion’s share of credit despite its convoluted flip-flop measures.
Yet, we now face the worst inflation situation in recent years, and the possibility of a global recession.
This is not the time to raise GST.
Already, many are feeling the pinch because their incomes cannot keep up with the prices of basic items.
The government must not rub salt further into our wounds, especially when there are other measures it can take to raise public funds.
(2) Better conditions for “non-elite” local talents to develop and prosper
The Covd-19 pandemic tore open the long-held facade of “meritocracy” parroted by the Ivory Tower, and exposed the deep inequality between the haves and have-nots.
When it came to education, a bulk of children from working and middle class families struggled to learn-from-home because they did not have access to the necessary tech tools, or conducive home environments.
Even as we leave behind the pandemic, we find the closure of more neighbourhood schools despite high class-size numbers.
Yet elite schools get fancy new MRT stations and sheltered walkways while more resources are being funnelled into the Gifted Education Programme.
This should not be the case.
Less-privileged children must also be given the chance to learn in an enviroment where more attention can be paid to their needs, and in which they are equipped with the right tools to succeed.
(3) A Minimum Qualifying Salary for foreign PMETS that ensures fair competition
The government has increased the minimum qualifying salary for foreign PMETs, or E-Pass holders.
Yet, this is a paltry increase – it still costs more to hire the equivalent of a Singaporean worker.
If foreign PMETs are truly “talents” brought in to fill roles that cannot be performed by Singaporeans, as the government claims, shouldn’t their wage floor be higher to match their level of “expertise”?
Instead, as things stand, these foreign PMETs continue to pose direct competition to Singaporeans – with an unfair wage advantage.
This must stop.
The SDA has spoken about these issues of cutting extravagant government spending, improving social mobility, and protection against unfair competition from foreign labour in our manifesto.
And we will continue to champion these issues, because these are key concerns of residents that we speak to on our walkabouts and house visits.
To all Common Singaporean workers young, old, and very old, we wish you a Happy Labour Day!
Just as our parents and grandparents have done before in the face of hardship, we too shall overcome.
Singapore Democratic Alliance