Kisah dua bandar: Ketidaksamaan upah di Singapura dan keperluan peningkatan produktiviti sebenar

Foto: PxHere

COVID-19 has shone the spotlight on inequality in Singapore. What are the underlying root causes of wage inequality in the Southeast Asian city-state and what can we do about it?

oleh Dora Heng

The COVID-19 pandemic has peeled open the cracks of inequity in Singapore, dividing society across the lines of the “haves”—those who have the luxury of a skilled remote job or the financial cushion to weather the storm—and the “have-nots”—low-wage workers who cannot risk losing their jobs and essential workers on the frontline who cannot risk getting sick.

Ironinya, as recently as February, Singapore’s progress on inequality was reported in a self-celebratory tone, dengan headlines reading “Income inequality falling to lowest…". To be fair, while Singapore has made recent progress in reducing inequality through government schemes like Workfare Income Supplement, more must be done to address the root causes of this unequal society.

Despite government efforts at redistribution, the crux of the issue lies in the persistent trend in wage inequality. antara 2004 ke 2014, growth in real incomes of households in the bottom 20%, before taxes and transfers, has been the slowest of any group, resulting in a 13.8% gap in growth rates between the lowest and highest quintile. sekitar 440,000 Singaporeans earning less than SGD$2,000 (US$1,415) per month fell into the bottom 20% of the resident workforce.

sumber: Ministry of Finance

Loose foreign labor policy depresses wages, while vulnerabilities as a small open economy and persistent anti-welfare ideology constrain real wage growth at the bottom

Isu ketidaksetaraan gaji yang kompleks di Singapura dapat difahami dari tiga perspektif yang terpisah A) dasar buruh, B) kelemahan ekonomi terbuka kecil dan C) inersia ideologi.

Pada awal tahun 2000an, Singapura menjalankan dasar pengembangan pekerja yang agresif yang menyebabkan kemasukan tenaga kerja asing yang besar. antara 2002 dan 2008, peratusan pekerja asing dalam tenaga kerja meningkat, terutamanya dalam industri berkemahiran rendah seperti pembuatan dan pembinaan.

Kenaikan jumlah pekerja asing dari negara jiran berpendapatan rendah ini pasti mengakibatkan penurunan bahagian upah nasional sebagai peratusan dari KDNK - ia menekan gaji di bahagian bawah, melebarkan jurang ketaksamaan.

Trend Pekerjaan Asing dan Bahagian Upah

sumber: Laporan ILO dengan data dari Jabatan Perangkaan, Kementerian Tenaga Manusia

The heavy lifting in growth was mainly borne by the expansion of the labor force instead of real productivity gains. In the 2000s, employment growth outpaced productivity growth. This slow growth in the productivity of labor limited the ability to increase real wages, resulting in a vicious low-wage cycle for Singaporean low-skilled workers.

As a small open economy, Singapore faces the challenge of safeguarding its global competitiveness while keeping inflation at bay.Without substantial productivity gains, sectors in non-tradable industries—sectors that consist of locally-rendered services such as construction, retail and cleaning services—are unable to raise wages without leading to the negative ramifications of higher inflation. begitu juga, sectors in the tradable industries—sectors that serve the export markets such as manufacturing and wholesale trade—must be conscious of wage increases to retain competitiveness in the global market. The debate on wage inequality must keep in mind these real and pressing concerns around the unique vulnerabilities and constraints that small open economies like Singapore face.

Encoded in the DNA of the political ruling class in Singapore is a strong aversion towards the ideology of welfare.Lee Kuan Yew, the first Prime Minister of Singapore, was quoted to have said, “If you bring a child into the world in the West, the state cares from him. If you bring a child into Asia, that’s your personal responsibility.”

Compared to the Scandinavian economies, Singapore’s disposable income GINI inequality coefficient is noticeably higher after tax and transfers, while the total tax burden is conspicuously much lower at 16%. Given the broad based support Singaporeans have for low tax rates, the push towards greater social welfare requires an evolving and honest dialogue between citizens and the state.

sumber: Ministry of Finance

Government needs to actively support labor productivity and protections for those at the bottom

Going back to economic fundamentals, real wages can only increase if labor productivity increases. Seperti, addressing the complex problem of wage inequality requires a strong push on two fronts: 1) to support gains in labor productivity while 2) increasing labor protections, especially for those at the bottom. Untuk mencapai matlamat ini, the government should play multiple roles, using both carrots and sticks.

The role of the state as knowledge provider

kecil- and medium-sized enterprises (SME)s that struggle with low productivity also typically face time and cash constraints on investing in R&D for innovation. State and parastatal organizations like trade and industry organizations (Enterprise Singapore, the Building and Construction Authority and tripartite partners in the cleaning and landscaping industries) can support SMEs by providing advice and technical assistance to consolidate jobs and redesign processes, including to incorporate digital technologies and automation while creating new learning paths for older employees. Workfare Singapore has already developed resource guides on job redesign, but more investment is needed in high-touch support for SMEs.

begitu juga, the government can support workers through job counselling and career coaching services for low-wage workers. It is important to tailor these services to the varied needs and preferences of low-wage workers. Initiatives can be customized either through one-on-one counseling or group sessions, tailored to the age, language and education level of workers, and rolled out in partnerships with grassroots organizations such as community centers and people’s association centers.

The role of the state as legislator

As a ‘stick’ towards businesses, the government needs to be more stringent on setting a minimum wage floor, tailored to sectors and their respective productivity levels but mencukupi for the minimum standard of living in Singapore. In this role, the state is articulating regulations that reflect a normative mandate, and one that ideally reflects the social obligations of all citizens. The progressive wage model (PWM), a wage structure that sets out the minimum pay for different job levels in the cleaning, security and landscaping sectors, adalah langkah ke arah yang betul. More can be done to expand the scope of coverage to include more sectors such as building and construction and also the gig economy.

COVID-19 serves as a wake-up shock to the system. It offers Singaporeans a chance to reflect on the social compact and economic fundamentals the country is built on and requires Singaporeans to demand more to protect the most vulnerable in society. Addressing the productivity gap and creating the dialogue to shift regulatory norms are critical actions Singapore society can take to close the gap in wage inequality.

Mengenai Pengarang

Dora Heng
Dora berasal dari Singapura tetapi pernah tinggal dan bekerja di seluruh Asia, Amerika Utara dan Afrika. Dia berminat bagaimana ekonomi digital dapat menyokong pertumbuhan di seluruh Asia Tenggara. Dia kini melanjutkan pelajaran ke peringkat Sarjana di Harvard Kennedy School of Government.