Well done bilingualism, well done speak Mandarin campaign. And finally, let’s pay our last respect to Rediffusion and pay our respect to the dialect generation. Do you still remember the Hokkien platoons? It had gone long ago and now it is the turn of dialect radio – another lost heritage of Singapore. As reported in the media, the end of Rediffusion is due to less listeners of the older and dialect speaking generation.
Is it so simple? Have state control, monopoly and fair competition nothing to do with the fate of Rediffusion? We leave it to the historians. However, even the PAP can do away with the dialects; there is still one problem that they cannot solve: low wage workers even they are better educated and English speaking.
The bilingualism and the speak Mandarin campaign happened to be coincided with our economic restructure. Besides pushing English as the common language for all in Singapore, the mastery of English language in theory should also raise the income level for all. So, we restructure the economy, we restructure the education system and we (over) emphasize the importance of English language. But have all Singaporeans benefit from the re-structure?
When we had the first wage restructure in the early 1980s, it also signaled the phasing out of low wage workers. Of course, people or workers who were not proficient in English would suffer because not knowing English is almost equivalent to low skills low wages workers. With the closing of Nantah and later on with the phasing out of Chinese schools, all young Singaporean workers are supposed to be English educated and command better or good English. However, this has not solved the wage and income gap problem.
It looked like the wage restructure lasted for only a few years in the early 1980s and then it led to economic recession in 1985 and 1986. After that, wage increase or restoration was not a welcome word for economic growth. In addition, because of the talent policy, on the one hand, wage increase was restrained but managerial salary and professional compensation were not. To achieve high growth, these talent individuals and professionals must be highly rewarded so that they can make contributions to Singapore.
Now, we not only have a worsening rich-poor gap, our better educated, English speaking workers are not better off than their dialect speaking counterparts some 30 years ago. Why? Are they not moving fast enough, catching up not quick enough or mastering English not enough? Therefore, they are becoming money not enough.
For young Singapore workers and service staff, the improvement achieved in the education level is not proportionally reflected in their wage increase. This has become a catch up game. Parents are demanding tuition, more tuition, more poly places, and more university places. Everyone is looking for better and higher education but can this push up the wage level, close the rich and poor gap, narrow the ‘haves’ and ‘don’t haves’? Most likely not because there is an oversupply of educated people in Singapore but not enough high paying jobs.
But the government insists there are plenty opportunities for social mobility. The younger generation with better educated and English proficiency should do better than the dialect generation, the Hokkien platoon generation. But how come the true picture seems to be different. Instead of complaining to Rediffusion, they now voice their criticisms, concerns and complaints in social media.
The situation must be very bad (and sad too) that there is a call for bold action to increase wages for low wage workers, service and administration staff for a continued period of 3 years. How come we can allow such a worsening situation continuing for 30 years without action? Has the NWC given a fair deal to our workers and not to mention the NTUC which supposes to fight for the workers?
Rediffusion will soon lose their voice. Dialect generation will soon follow and disappear. The associated heritages with dialects will also diminish. Bukit Brown too will be scaled down. However, the rich-poor problem continues to exist and perhaps becomes more problematic.
Is this the worry of the PAP? Or is it the problem of the English speaking younger generation? The dialect generation will bring with them their regret when the time comes. They have no strength to voice out, no English to write to social media, but the younger English speaking generation will be very different, especially in voting time.