Singapore's Ministry of Manpower, its National Trades Union Congress, and the Singapore National Employers Federation are forming a tripartite workgroup to push for higher salaries and better welfare for low-income workers. The new workgroup, comprising representatives from each of the three organizations, will look into implementing better wage models in sectors with large numbers of low-wage workers—such as waste management—while improving productivity for these sectors.
Ng Chee Meng, Secretary General of NTUC, said in a Facebook post announcing the workgroup's formation that one of its initiatives would be to expand the progressive wage model originally introduced in 2012. The model, which is currently implemented in the cleaning, landscape, and security sectors, involves building in an annual wage increase for workers in these sectors and balancing it with training to raise their productivity.
"The Tripartite Workgroup will allow us to push for the development of mandatory progressive wage models in more sectors," he wrote. "The Workgroup would also allow tripartite partners to study other approaches towards uplifting the wages and well-being of low-wage workers such as through sectoral or occupational wage benchmarks for sectors where it is more difficult to implement the PWM."
Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo noted that it is important to sustain continued wage growth but also to protect the employability of low-wage workers. "Their families depend on them, and we must not take this concern lightly or treat it academically. This is especially because the availability and nature of work is going through deep change at all levels," she wrote.
Low-wage workers around the world have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and the situation is no different in Singapore. One study by DBS Bank found that lower-income workers made up half of those who saw their pay checks drop due to the pandemic, and within that group, half of them lost more than 50 percent of their monthly income.