Calls for universal basic income in Singapore on May Day

Supertree Grove. Garden by the bay in Marina Bay area at night with lightning, Singapore City.

By: Jewel Stolarchuk

See original post here.

Red Dot United (RDU) has proposed several measures to uplift Singapore workers in today’s challenging post-COVID world in its Labour Day message released today (1 May).

Noting that workers face greater job insecurity, under-employment, loss of income, workplace safety risks, and threats to their rights and social protection, RDU proposed policies like a universal basic income (UBI) of $100 for all Singaporeans and a Singapore First hiring framework, among a slate of suggestions to protect workers better.

While the RDU welcomes the Government’s Local Qualifying Salary (LQS) framework, which the opposition party has called a “quasi-minimum-wage scheme,” it believes that the Government should consider UBI as it provides workers with a sense of security against an uncertain future brought on by the challenges posed by automation and technological unemployment.

Calling the existing SkillsFuture Credit and CDC voucher schemes examples of forms of UBI, RDU said that the UBI is not such a radical idea. Party chief Ravi Philemon said:

“Policy proposals must be both idealistic and incremental, and RDU’s policy proposal for UBI is based on these values. As automation makes many jobs vulnerable to becoming obsolete, as the value of work becomes lesser and lesser, as society becomes more unequal, UBI is a conversation we, as a society, should have. And as we have this conversation, we can decide together if the amount must be revised.”

The party also said that a Singaporean First Hiring Framework (SFHF) would serve as an effective mechanism to ensure Singaporeans have access to good jobs, as the Fair Consideration Framework “has severe limitations.”

Part of RDU’s vision for the SFHF is for it to be used to monitor if there is unfair competition for good jobs for Singaporeans and assess if it is necessary to introduce a levy for Employment Pass holders to rebalance PMET jobs in the mid-high salary range towards Singaporeans.

The party added that such a hiring framework could also help recognize and award Human Resource managers with a good compliance track record for prioritizing jobs for Singaporeans and provide incentives for companies to employ such HR managers.

The party added, “The SFHF will also be a more useful mechanism to ensure that lack of basic workers’ rights, such as the right to sit, is disadvantaging local workers in certain industries.

“For example, are some retailers saving on labour costs by hiring foreign workers who are willing to work long hours without the right to sit, which puts local workers at a disadvantage?”

The party also expressed concern about the slow growth and stagnation of real wages, which refers to the increase in wages adjusted for inflation.

Real wage growth is critical to ensuring that workers can meet expectations for a higher quality of life, which includes access to education, leisure activities, and consumer goods, and improve their standard of living, according to RDU. It added:

“Real wage growth also has broader implications for economic growth and social stability. When workers earn more, they tend to spend more, which boosts consumer spending and drives economic growth. This, in turn, creates more job opportunities and improves overall living standards, reducing income inequality and promoting social cohesion.”

While wages for higher-skilled jobs in sectors such as finance and technology are generally competitive with global standards, RDU is concerned that wages for other jobs are relatively lower than in developed countries and that economic growth is not as inclusive as it should be.

Mr Philemon said, “Globalisation aggravates inequality, and one measure used to track this is the share of wages in national income. Despite having one of the highest GDP per capita in the world, our wage share of GDP is around 43%. This is lower than that of most developed economies, which is at 50% or more, and this may mean that workers in Singapore are underpaid.”

The party has called on Government leaders to identify with workers by pegging ministerial salaries to multiples of the Median Gross Monthly Income from Work instead of benchmarking their pay to 60% of the median income of the top 1,000 earners who are citizens.

Asserting that the current ministerial pay framework indicates that “Government Ministers have chosen to identify themselves with the top earners” and that they should be incentivized to grow wage shares in Singapore to match that of other first-world nations. The party said:

“Because their wages are pegged to the top earners, they have every incentive to ensure that the salaries of this group of earners remain high and continue to increase, while they have very little incentive to grow the incomes of all Singaporeans.”

Asserting that all Singapore workers, including migrant workers, must be treated fairly, with dignity and respect, RDU proposed that a doughnut economy model can help create a more just and sustainable society that benefits all members of the community.

RDU has been an ardent proponent of the Doughnut Economy, an economic model that aims to balance economic growth and social well-being within the limits of the planet.

By prioritising social and environmental objectives, RDU has said that the Doughnut Economy can protect and provide security for workers and promote a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities.

Sharing that the Doughnut Economy offers a new approach to economic development that places social and environmental objectives at the centre of policymaking, RDU said: “For example, in Singapore, the Doughnut Economy could help to promote a more equitable distribution of resources and opportunities, which can benefit workers.

“This can be achieved through measures such as implementing a living wage policy, providing access to affordable housing and healthcare, and investing in education and training programs to help workers acquire the skills needed for the jobs of the future.”

RDU added that the challenges Singapore workers face could be addressed if the government, employers, political parties, and civil society work hand in hand. Reaffirming its commitment to co-build a compassionate society with fellow Singaporeans, the party said:

“There is an urgent need to build a more caring and inclusive society that prioritises the well-being and dignity of all individuals – including workers.

“To achieve this goal, it is essential to promote policies and initiatives that advance social justice and reduce inequality, such as implementing a UBI policy, providing access to affordable housing and healthcare, and supporting workers’ rights to organise and bargain collectively.

“Moreover, it is important to promote awareness and education about the needs and challenges facing different groups of workers, including migrant workers and those in low-wage jobs.

“By working towards the goal of a compassionate society, we can create a more just and equitable future that benefits all members of our community. A future which ensures that the contributions of workers are valued and respected. Happy Labour Day Singapore!”

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