Saturday, 21 April 2012

Even maids have better bargaining power than low wage workers in Singapore



For the past years, we have seen the wage increase of maids from one hundred over dollars to now more than 300, 400 dollars per month. However, as pointed out by Prof. Lim Chong Yah, low wage workers have not enjoyed increase in wages over the same period.  Comparing to domestic helpers from other countries, our very own workers seems to have stagnation in income.   Are they less productive than the domestic helpers? Do they contribute less than the maids in our GDP?

Neighbouring countries know that they have to protect their workers and request Singapore government to raise the wage level of their country workers. What has happened to our government, why do they treat our low skills low wage workers differently?

People, who have experience in employing maids for a longer period, will notice whether the productivity of maids have improved over the same period.  With due respect to these domestic helpers, we know their productivity may be the same before and after wage adjustment.  However, considering the cost of livings, expenses, inflation, etc., we know we cannot pay them like before even the Singapore dollars has appreciated a lot over the years.  

As our income level increases, we also share the growth with our maids voluntarily or involuntarily.  Therefore, if we really have to link productivity and wage increase together as suggested by Lim Swee Say, then the foreign domestic helpers may not entitle for a wage increase. But we cannot do that if not, no foreign domestic helpers will come to Singapore.  It is also unfair to the domestic helpers who have help to maintenance and keep our houses clean as well as the well beings of our children.  So, when our income grows, we also share with our domestic helpers.  But why not the low wage Singapore workers? Who is going to take care about them? 

Even with wage increase, the foreign domestic maids working in Singapore is also facing a ‘short-change’ situation. Maids who work in Hong Kong and Taiwan are getting higher wages than in Singapore.  However, Singapore’s GNP per capita is higher than these two regions.    Hence, even for maids, there is also an under paid problem even with some wage increases.  The situation for low wage workers is even worst. They don’t even have an increase at all.  Their fate is worse than the maids.  By this analogy, Singapore low wage workers are treated less favourable than the foreign domestic helpers.   It is really amazing!
If we are willing to share the growth with foreigners, how come we can’t do the same for our own Singaporeans?  Is it because we can find replacement for our low wage workers but we cannot find substitutes for domestic helpers?  

So, this goes back to Prof Lim’s reasoning:  the import of foreign workers to replace low wage Singaporeans.   Even they are Singaporeans; the government will not care about their welfare and keep on pushing down their wages by allowing more foreign workers to come in.      

It is like the ancient Chinese landlords.  They keep pushing down the wages and income of the small farmers and landless farmers; they use different tactics to confiscate lands of small farmers or force them working until they drop.        

Singapore is a first world country and we see the third world or ancient practices here.  We can cry high to call for respects to low wage workers but is this enough?  They need a minimum income to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Who is going to help them? The PAP says no unless you improve your productivity.

So, this is a chicken and egg problem.  We may never get a satisfactory answer unless ….. 

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