There are estimated 300,000 "vulnerable poor" who earn less than $1,200 a month on the threshold of poverty. About 120,000 or 12 per cent of the working population are doing odd-jobs, contract work, and part-time jobs that do not make contribution to the CPF.
Listen to the voice of 300,000 "vulnerable poor"
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Most first-world governments adhere to the call of the International Labour organisation (ILO) to ratify and implement all Core Labour Standards, fundamental labour rights, especially the Minimum Wage Fixing Convention (No.131) 1970 for developing countries.
The purpose of minimum wage is to protect vulnerable low wage workers from exploitation and poverty. As a first-world government, Singapore has only ratified 5 out of the 8 ILO core labour standards. Singapore has ratified conventions on Forced Labour C.29; Freedom of association C.98; Discrimination C.100; and Child Labour C.138 and C.182. [Ratifications of the ILO Fundamental Conventions As of 30 Apr 2007 ]
Yet there are estimated 300,000 "vulnerable poor" who earn less than $1,200 a month on the threshold of poverty. About 120,000 or 12 per cent of the working population are doing odd-jobs, contract work, and part-time jobs that do not make contribution to the CPF. Their Medisave contributions are very low without Medisheid or Eldershield contribution.
How do workers with low education and less skills, little bargaining power and no representation deal with unreasonable employers? The employer has the right to fire them. They fear losing their jobs. They dare not make reports to the MOM or CPF about their bad working conditions. They suffer silently the consequence of low wages, unreasonable hours, poor bargaining power and the risk of retrenchment.
How will redistribution of wealth happen when there is denial of respect for core labour standards including the need for a minimum wage system? Why is the need for a 'minimum wage' to fulfil basic needs rejected by this first-world government?
The key purpose of a minimum wage system is social, preventing labour exploitation and poverty. Minimum wage can became a key social policy tool to protect low-skilled workers by setting a wage floor below which no payment should be made. Singapore's argument against a minimum wage system is not convincing.
Minimum wage policy will lead to the reduction of poverty for the 300,000 "vulnerable poor"and their families.
This May Day 2007, Think Centre makes the following recommendations to the Singapore government, employers, trade unions to:
1. ratify and implement all the ILO Core Labour Standards;
2. ratify and implement ILO C.131 Recommended Minimum wage standards as a developing country;
3. stop all forms of discrimination towards all workers especially, aged, lower educated workers, women workers, disabled workers and migrant workers;
4. adopt policies to secure decent working conditions, and ensure salary are paid, with decent living conditions for Migrant workers;
5. To update deficient labour legislation by removing or amending outdated policies such as:
5.1. Stronger labour law to protect against discrimination of older workers, gender, race and religion, physical disabilities and foreign domestic workers;
5.2. Greater support for the unemployed and/or disabled workers through a national insurance scheme, as well provide access to housing, healthcare, re-training and other essentials for a decent living.
5.3 Amend the 1973-policy which requires prior permission for work permit holders to marry locals. Instead those with relevant skills and who have worked in Singapore for 4 years should be free to marry locals;
Think Centre hereby wishes fellow Singaporeans, especially the "vulnerable poor" a happy Labour Day holiday.
In Solidarity with all workers - human rights for all
Sources and Relevant Links:
Think Centre Think Centre 2007 New Year Message
ILO Ratifications of the ILO Fundamental Conventions As of 30 Apr 2007
Taskforce on ASEAN Migrant Workers ASEAN member states urged to ratify UN Human Rights Treaties and ILO Core Conventions
Asian Development Bank Core Labor Standards Handbook
Think Centre More than respect for the rights of women07 March 2007
Think Centre Is Singapore an inclusive society? 06 December 2006