Monday, 12 May 2014

Structural Reform – no lazy way out

[In between Mother’s Day and Vesak Day, more compassion and hard thinking are needed to solve the problems of low wage and older workers. The lazy thinking of the PAP is not only outdated but will add more pressures to citizens.]  

My neighbor, a good and loyal senior citizen, still insists on working without complaining. To the PAP, she is really a model citizen. However, our work and business structure have forced her to quit her job.

She told me she is going to work until 26th of this month.  Why? Her cleaning company has lost the tender. But according to market practice, she can still work with the new tender winner as she is more familiar with work environment and condition. Her answer is the new cleaning contractor wants workers to work for 2 blocks of buildings instead of the current arrangement of 1 block 1 worker. Physically, she said she couldn’t handle 2 blocks of cleaning work in one go.

In fact, as she told me, the condo management (MCST) has just increased the conservancy fees and she thought she not only could keep her job perhaps with a pay increase. However, the result is just the opposite. A senior citizen lost her cleaning job while the cleaning industry is under restructure with new licensing requirement.  

This is the reality of the PAP job reform and economic re-structure.  Everyone must be fit even senior citizens must be fit to compete in a physical demand environment. Apparently, the new contract winner must be able to cut cost by giving extra money or overtime pay to younger workers by covering the cleaning work of 2 blocks. If the contractor cannot find local workers willing to do the job, then the contractor will have reasons to bring in foreign workers.

This is logical and it seems reasonable explanations on why we need to bring in foreign workers. But is it a lazy way of thinking and solving problems?  The lazy thinking provides straight forward solutions but also creates problems at the same time.  

Singapore is already a first world country and as what the Minster for Trade and Industry had said we could no longer paying our workers third world wages. We need hard creative thinking not lazy direct thinking to solve our complicated problems, especially when we want to increase the retirement age. What kinds of suitable jobs are we going to offer to senior citizens, in addition to fair wages? 

The PAP has been using this lazy way of thinking to solve problems since independence. This explains why the wages of lower income workers have not increased for more than 10 years. Our economic policymaking is a very straight and lazy thinking. We use low wages to stimulate the growth and in many ways we seek to achieve growth rate above our local potentials.

How can the minister offer first world wages to our old-age cleaners? How can the reformed cleaning industry continue to provide jobs match the physical condition of senior citizens?

Another example: CPF

If you look at the CPF minimum sum, it is again another lazy thinking. In anticipation of future inflation, living longer and higher living costs, the retirement funds will certainly increase. As the payout is not inflation-adjusted but a fit sum, so this minimum sum has to increase not decrease. Is this another lazy thinking? Like the cleaning lady, by increasing the minimum sum is the easiest way to solve the problem. Whether you have physical or intellectual ability to meet the minimum sum is not the problem of the government. You find your own solutions and the government is not helping you at all. 

So, when the cleaning lady is running out of money, and she wants to enter the labor market again, she will have to offer herself at a lower rate, a rate lower than her current employment. And you know there is no minimum wage here, even there is a so-called guideline for cleaning industry, the cleaning contractors will want to find the productive workers and unfortunately this has to come from outside Singapore or willing younger workers.

How to give a fair value to senior citizen cleaning workers, and how to cover the retirement needs (either minimum sum or some combinations) are hard thinking questions. The PAP’s lazy thinking solution may work well in the past but certainly Singapore needs hard and creative thinking now and in future.  

Other lazy thinking examples include:

Hospital beds: The lazy thinking is if you can’t wait, you can either upgrade or go to private hospitals. To make it one step lazier, once you upgrade, you can’t downgrade. Once you go out, it is hard to return to public hospitals. Your financial burdens are your problems.  

The Toa Payoh graffiti: The lazy thinking of the mainstream media is to alter the picture so that readers will not be able to read the right messages. There is no hard thinking on why this happens. There is no hard thinking why the truth cannot be reported. In placing charges, will the persecutors take the lazy way to skip the key words in the graffiti?

The Little India Riot: The lazy thinking is to blame the alcohol. The lazy thinking is to move foreign workers to a remote area and contains them there.   

Jubilee Baby Gift and Golden Birth Certificates: To celebrate SG50, the lazy thinking is to give all new born babies something in 2015 and ignore other babies. Are they caring the minority or the majority?

You can find more examples if you take a closer look at the PAP and how they run Singapore.  They are solving problems in a lazy way. However, Singapore has become more complicated and sophisticated, and the lazy thinking of one-party rule has gone. Singapore can no longer solve our problems like the past – only the PAP doing the lazy thinking. Lazy thinking is not creative thinking.  

It is time to do the hard thinking, difficult thinking and involving more parties. And in between Mother’s Day and Vesak Day, we shall not be so lazy in thinking, rather we must think in a compassion way. 

1 comment:

  1. 'Lazy thinking'? You are being too kind.
    The correct way to describe it is 'wilful blindness or neglect'.