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234,000 lower-wage workers in Singapore to benefit from 18 recommendations on wages, jobs, and wellbeing

234,000 lower-wage workers in Singapore to benefit from 18 recommendations on wages, jobs, and wellbeing

Some of the recommendations include expanding PWMs into retail, food services, and waste management sectors by 2023; requiring employers to play local workers with a qualifying salary of S$1,400 onwards, and more.

The government has accepted all 18 recommendations by the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers to improve the overall working standards of lower-wage workers in Singapore, according to the Ministry of Manpower on 30 August (Monday).

The recommendations, shared by Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad, who is also the chairman of the workgroup, mainly cover areas such as expanding the country's Progressive Wage framework to cover the vast majority of lower-wage workers within the next two years; accelerating and sustaining Progressive Wage growth over the next decade to ensure lower-wage workers gain ground on the median, and garnering whole-of-society support to uplift our lower-wage workers and advance their well-being.

"Uplifting lower-wage workers is a subject very close to my heart," Minister Zaqy said on Facebook.

"COVID-19 has underscored the essential work carried out by many of our lower-wage workers and just how vulnerable they are, especially in times of economic uncertainty. Now, more than ever, it is important for us to ensure that our workers are taken care of.

"As Chairman of the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers, I am pleased to share that we have put together 18 recommendations to improve the wages, job outcomes, and well-being of our lower-wage workers. Once implemented, the recommendations will cover 234,000, or 8 in 10 of our lower-wage workers. With the launch of the Progressive Wage Mark, we expect that up to 94% stand to benefit from wage growth."

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According to the Ministry of Manpower's latest report, the 18 recommendations are as follows:

To refresh Progressive Wage approach and coverage to boost wages to gain ground with the median

  1. Expand Progressive Wages to new sectors: Retail from 1 September 2022, food services from 1 March 2023, and waste management from 2023.
  2. Extend existing cleaning, security, and landscape PWMs to in-house workers from 1 September 2022.
  3. Introduce new Occupational Progressive Wages to administrators and drivers from 1 March 2023.
  4. Firms employing foreign workers have to pay at least the Local Qualifying Salary (i.e S$1,400) to all local workers from 1 September 2022. This will be so even if the firm has excess foreign worker quota, or the Sectoral or Occupational Progressive Wages do not apply to the firm’s local workers.
  5. Progressive Wages and Local Qualifying Salary will be converted to fair hourly rates for those working part-time or overtime. This will provide firms flexibility to hire locals on different work arrangements without losing foreign worker access, while ensuring fair wages for workers based on their hours worked.
  6. Baseline Progressive Wage growth for workers at the 20th percentile should outpace median wage growth, so that lower-wage workers gain ground with the median. Aim for higher than baseline Progressive Wage growth for lower-paid lower-wage workers; and lower than baseline Progressive Wage growth for workers in wage rungs above the 20th percentile wage level.
  7. Maintain the overarching principle that wages should continue to keep pace with productivity growth, but provide scope for wage growth of lower-wage workers to outpace productivity. As lower-wage workers may be in roles with limited scope for productivity improvement, businesses should continue to enhance their firm-level productivity to better support wage increases for workers.

To leverage Singapore institutions to ensure sustained wage growth

  1. The National Wages Council should set annual guidance for Progressive Wage growth and recommend annual wage growth of Occupational Progressive Wages.
  2. Firms employing foreign workers have to pay at least the relevant Sectoral or Occupational Progressive Wages to all local workers in applicable job roles.
  3. Leverage the Work Pass system to ensure that employers pay Progressive Wages and Local Qualifying Salary before they can access any foreign workers, while complemented by current licensing regimes.
  4. In the long-term, express Progressive Wages in gross terms.

To promote whole-of-society support to uplift lower-wage workers

  1. Government should review Workfare regularly to ensure that lower-wage workers continue to be supported even as Progressive Wages become more pervasive.
  2. Government should provide transitional support for employers, with higher support in the initial phase as businesses recover from the impact of COVID-19.
  3. Beyond wages, employers should advance wellbeing of lower-wage workers by:

    (i) supporting them to upskill and progress in their careers;
    (ii) providing them with a safe and healthy work environment; and
    (iii) providing them with adequate rest areas.

  4. Establish a new Tripartite Standard on Advancing Lower-Wage Workers’ wellbeing, to help more firms adopt and implement the specified practices and be publicly recognised for doing so.
  5. Establish a new Progressive Wage Mark (“PW Mark”) to recognise firms that pay Progressive Wages. This will enable corporate buyers and individual consumers to purchase from these firms to support lower-wage workers’ wage increases. In addition, confer “PW Mark Plus” to firms that go the extra mile to uplift lower-wage workers holistically by advancing their well-being.
  6. Public and private sector buyers should require their suppliers to obtain the PW Mark.
  7. Grow the Alliance for Action for Lower-Wage Workers, so that uplifting lower-wage workers is a whole-of-society endeavour.

NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng chimed in on the move, saying: "The bottom line for an inclusive society – our lower-wage workers need to earn higher wages.

"I am therefore heartened that, in a short span of 10 months, the Tripartite Workgroup on Lower-Wage Workers has put together a set of bold and actionable recommendations to uplift the wages of our lower-wage workers, at a faster pace."

This, he added, supports the union's earlier calls for faster and wider implementation of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), so that more workers can benefit from better jobs and better pay, in tandem with productivity growth.

The Secretary-General also noted that the additional measures—such as the introduction of Occupational Progressive Wages and use of Local Qualifying Salary to raise wages of the remaining lower-wage workers—will help cover those workers that a sectoral PWM would not be able to.

"These measures will see more than 80% of full-time lower-wage workers benefit from progressive wages over time, up from the current 10%," he emphasised.

Image / Senior Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad's Facebook

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