Tuesday, September 8, 2015

I am 4 Minimum Wage

Taking a break from the intensity of ministry for me is reading and following politics, especially those that interest me like Singapore's GE this Friday. One issue that has been raised by several opposition parties is a minimum wage for workers and Workers' Party went as far to suggest that it should be S$1,000.00 per month. I read counter-arguments written by several experts, economists and politicians but I am not convinced that imposition of a minimum wage will put a dampener on a country's economy. I cite this post from Singaporedaily (see here) and I will try to answer his/her arguments against minimum wage.
First, employers will try to reduce workers if costs increase in the imposition of minimum wage. There is some truth in this, but employers should consider workers' rights to a basic wage that could feed a small family (liveable wage as it is called in some countries). If S$700.00 is seen to be insufficient for a family of 4 or 5 to survive a month, then society is not doing enough to ensure that the lowest rung of workers are compensated reasonably for the 40 to 50 hours per week work, let alone the goal of reducing the income gap between the highest and lowest earners. This is where government comes in to help these low paid workers, though in Singapore, Workfare and other schemes are there to help most of these workers. Despite all these, I see it as a human right that a labourer is worthy of his wages, in terms of being reasonably compensated for his work.

The blog-writer mentioned about US$15 an hour wage in America (I doubt that this is a correct figure for most States in America) and how he would not pay a person to flip burger that amount. Yes and no. All work must be given dignity for work is work and work performed must be compensated reasonably. If say, the minimum wage is S$1,000 per month for a burger flipper, then for 40 hours a week or 180 hours a month, he gets paid about $5.50 an hour which is only about a quarter or less than a third of the US minimum wage. Any kind of work is worth S$5.50 an hour especially in an advance economy like Singapore. It is demeaning to pay any less if you think how much CEOs, politicians and professionals are earning. Yes, profits margins will be reduced slightly, but a company or employers will have to change their thinking to see that it is a social obligation on their part to ensure their workers' rights are respected and their contribution recognised, no matter how lowly their job or work is perceived by paying these workers an honourable wage.

The other argument put forward against minimum wage is that a person can simply quit if he or she does not like the pay and go elsewhere that pays more. That only happens if you have certain skills or qualifications. But for most lowly paid jobs, it is either take it or leave it. And families of these workers depend on these meagre income to survive. It is precisely these lowly workers that need to be protected from uncaring employers that are concerned only with profitability. When a society treats its lowest paid citizens honourably by paying a minimum wage, a society is on its way to be known as a compassionate society for in that way and others, the most vulnerable members are taken care of and protected by those in power.

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