Sunday, 11 August 2013

'Central area weighting' for low-wage workers?

After an international anthropology conference I came home from Manchester in a train full of tourists who were taking home expensive Man Utd merchandise and found one of my letters has been published:

'Central area weighting' for low-wage workers? [not sure how long ST would keep this online]

After the last letter which I had complained sounded anaemic after editing, the editor had kindly (bless his heart, and many thanks if you are reading this) shown me an edit of the letter before it was published. I was even able to add in a further sentence towards the end.

The published version here (just in case ST takes down the original link above):
DURING my recent three-week visit to Singapore, I could not help but notice the many posters seeking staff at retail and food and beverage outlets.

A staff member told me it was almost impossible to hire anyone to work in the "central" area as job-seekers consider it too expensive to travel and eat there.

Employers do not like hiring students because they tend to quit soon after being trained, while older workers look down on the $5.50 an hour offered to them.

I pondered over whether it is possible to live in Singapore on a monthly wage of $1,500 for a year. After deducting the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution, that would mean having a take-home pay of $1,200.

The cheapest room I could find for rent was one in Bukit Merah, going for $800 a month.

If I were to live on $1,500, would I be able to travel to the "central" area and eat with my remaining $400? Remember, there is often a "no cooking" rule when renting units.

I decided that on $1,500 a month, a worker could do two of these - rent, travel or eat - but not all three.

Then, there is the cost of leisure activities (for good mental health), clothes, toiletries, tax, training (for a better job) and putting aside something for a rainy day.

Of course, there are the periodic Workfare payouts for some. But what other help do workers get at the end of every month?

Are Singapore employers allowed to give workers a "central area weighting" or other kinds of subsidies not subject to tax or CPF deductions, just as some employees get a "London weighting" to ameliorate the costs of working in London? This should be restricted to low-wage earners so that the privilege is not abused.

More importantly, are consumers willing to pay more for their goods and services, so that workers can afford to work?

The original had a mention of 'minimum wage':

I am not a fan of the ‘minimum wage’ either. It is a heartless policy.

Oral history accounts tell of how employers took into account the personal circumstances of their trusted employees and often raised their wages when employees got married or had a new baby.

Minimum wage in the UK means employers think that meeting the legal requirement should be the full extent of their generosity. Taxpayers now make up the shortfall with ‘Working Tax Credit’ while employers (unfairly) keep all their profits.

My husband was furious when he read some of the online comments on the Forum page. (Let's just say we are very protective of each other.)

I cannot understand why every time I write something in the press in support of the downtrodden and disadvantaged in Singapore, I get slammed for being 'elitist' and told to 'go home'. So I am particularly grateful to those who write in support.

Clearly Singapore is my home -- I have a passport to prove this when I could have become British many years ago -- and I write and critique what goes on because I feel passionately about and for the people who call themselves 'Singaporeans'.

Incidentally I think working adults should be entitled to having their own rooms and not have to share. Particularly where people might work on shifts, for good mental and physical health, it is not ideal to share a room with someone who's not a spouse.

So, what have I done wrong this time to warrant such negative comments from some readers??