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New workgroup will consult employees, firms on how to help low-wage workers: Zaqy Mohamad

SINGAPORE — A new workgroup formed to look into raising the salaries and well-being of low-income workers will be doing a series of consultations to assess a range of issues impacting these workers, including the suitability of implementing the progressive wage model (PWM) in more sectors.

New workgroup will consult employees, firms on how to help low-wage workers: Zaqy Mohamad

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, watching a cleaning demonstration at a DBS bank branch on Oct 29, 2020, before giving the media details on a new workgroup to help lower-wage workers.

  • A tripartite workgroup aims to "significantly increase" the number of lower-wage workers under the progressive wage model
  • It hopes to complete consultations with stakeholders by 2022
  • There are plans for an interim update in the middle of next year, Senior Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad said

 

SINGAPORE — A new workgroup formed to look into raising the salaries and well-being of low-income workers will be doing a series of consultations to assess a range of issues impacting these workers, including the suitability of implementing the progressive wage model (PWM) in more sectors.

Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Senior Minister of State for Manpower, told the media on Thursday (Oct 29) that he will be chairing the workgroup, which will be made up of representatives from the Government, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) the Singapore National Employers Federation and the Singapore Business Federation.

It will hold consultations with employers, workers and other stakeholders over the next one-and-a-half years.

There are plans for an interim update on these discussions in the middle of next year, and the consultations will conclude “hopefully” by 2022, Mr Zaqy added.

The formation of the workgroup was announced earlier this month by Manpower Minister Josephine Teo and NTUC chief Ng Chee Meng.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spelled out the workgroup's terms of reference in a statement on Thursday. The workgroup will propose interventions and mechanisms that will:

  • Ensure that wage growth in mandatory PWM sectors continue to outpace the median wage growth of all sectors

  • Significantly increase the number of lower-wage workers covered by the PWM

  • Offer progressive wages in occupations not covered by the mandatory PWM

  • Recognise and promote stronger societal support for firms paying progressive wages

  • Advance the well-being of lower-wage workers

The PWM, which was first used in 2012, is a framework where wages are pegged to skills, productivity and career development. It now covers around 80,000 workers in the cleaning, security and landscaping sectors.

While the workgroup will seek to expand the PWM to more sectors, Mr Zaqy said that this will not be a straightforward process.

“The reality is that different sectors can have different outcomes,” he said. “We will do the analysis — go to the ground to understand and see how we can implement it in different areas, different sectors.”

For example, Mr Zaqy noted that NTUC had recently proposed the PWM for the waste management sector.

The PWM has been a hot topic of late, with the Workers’ Party pushing for a S$1,300 minimum wage in Parliament, while the Government argued that such a policy could lead to increased unemployment as businesses face higher costs.

Asked whether the workgroup was formed to put an end to these debates, Mr Zaqy said that efforts to support lower-income workers are not new, and that earlier in March, the last term of Government had announced its intention to expand the PWM.

“When we announced this, it was pre-Covid to some extent, before we had the circuit breaker (to halt economic activities)… so all the more you find that it’s more challenging to implement these measures,” he said.

“To us, it’s not about ideology… we are not against minimum wage, because PWM is already sort of a minimum wage-plus,” he said. “So the concept is not one versus the other, it is about how we can improve the livelihoods of our low-wage workers under the current circumstances.”

He added that the PWM will not be the only policy that the workgroup will look into to help workers.

“We will look at other schemes such as (the Workfare Income Supplement Scheme) and other social schemes that could have supported low-wage workers, and look at them holistically,” he said.

Related topics

low income Progressive Wage Model salary low-wage workers

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