“We must continue to close social gaps by addressing the struggles of all our working people, especially the sandwiched middle-class and lower income workers, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Ng Chee Meng in Parliament.
“Help will always be available to those who need it, whether for employment, housing or education. Those who have done better should reach out to the less fortunate. In Singapore, no one should be left behind,” said the Minister while replying to the President’s address in Parliament.
Urging the employers to have nimble mindset and workers to upgrade their skills, Ng said, “We need employers to maintain a nimble mindset and workers to help themselves by upgrading their work skills. Both employees and employers must stay relevant in the evolving business environment. This is the best solution because wages can only increase with productivity gains. Real wage increase is necessary to keep up with inflation, to cope with the cost of living.”
Ng Chee Meng, who is also the new National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) deputy secretary-general, voiced his concerns for three groups of workers: Low-wage earners, mature employees and middle-aged workers who are not drawing high salaries.
Expressing concern about the workers, Ng said, “Workers are reasonably worried about rising cost of living and making ends meet. There are concerns about buying a home, about their retirement savings, about healthcare costs, and having enough for their children’s education,”
“They sometimes feel that no matter how hard they work, these needs may not always be adequately addressed,” he added.
The Minister proposed setting up a tripartite committee to provide better support for the ageing workforce and to help mature workers to continue working if they choose to.
“The real question here is whether employers are willing to employ senior workers instead of having the fixed mindset that these workers are a burden, more expensive and untrainable,” he said.
The Minister also proposed expanding the use of NTUC's Inclusive Growth programme for low-wage workers and find pathways to support them. The programme promotes job redesign, the use of equipment and technology as well as best-sourcing initiatives.
For supporting middle-income workers, he said, “The Labour Movement will need more support from the Government and business leaders to redesign jobs and encourage workers to upskill and stay relevant.”
“The Labour Movement believes that the best way to improve the lives of Singapore's workers is through gainful employment, in good jobs with good wages,” said Ng.