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Singapore: Think Centre’s New Year message

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Building a better Singapore based on social justice and equality – to achieve a fair and equitable share of prosperity – should be a priority, says Think Centre in a New Year message.


The Singapore economy is forecast to face weakened prospects in 2013. Coming on the back of the recent bus drivers strike which exposed the flawed foundations of labour relations and management of Singapore. Without addressing the flawed fundamentals that perversely drives and underpin the economy, 2013 does not bode well for Singapore’s workers and their families.

Since independence (1965), Singapore had stridently moved away from the original founding principles of building an economy that allowed for equitable sharing of the opportunities for economic progress. The fundamental principles of social justice, of equality and solidarity, must be respected to enable all workers to claim their fair share of the growth which they help create. However, the Singapore of today, after decades of economic growth, has one of the highest income inequality amongst the economically developed world; the gap is growing and continues to further widen the social divide.

While Singapore’s current economic model seems to create opportunities and benefits for some, many workers struggle to keep up. Despite the benefits created, Singapore’s economy fails to provide for a fair share of the prosperity for all. Instead, and regrettably, the workers of Singapore are suffering as the government – with the tacit support of the trade union – continues to refuse to effectively fulfil the core International Labour standards such as the 1998 ILO Declaration on the fundamental principles and rights at work.

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Singapore’s economic policies and labour laws must be revised to face adequately the challenges of the global economy to provide for better protection of all workers and their families – with respect to workers’ rights, decent working and living conditions, improved social protections, fair and equal opportunities for all – in conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity. Adherence to international labour standards will ensure that Singapore’s economic growth benefits are shared with all.

Singapore should promote and advance social justice, decent work, social protection and ensure the effective implementation of the International Labour Standards to overcome existing injustices, abuse and exploitation of all workers. The aim of economic growth must be to better the life and dignity of the people, not just the maximum profit for businesses – whether run by the government or private companies. We must remember that “labour is not a commodity”; and workers are human beings. The government must create fair and equal opportunities for the people to have free choice of work, without any discrimination, most of all, with dignity.

The practice of low labour standards must end. It is not acceptable that discriminatory and exploitative practice are justified as a “comparative advantage” with regard to achieving economic aims. Justifying such low labour standards only encourages the continuation of malpractices in Singapore such as depressed wage levels, wage discrimination, unsafe work practices, and migrant workers housed in slum-like conditions, and worse discriminatory hiring practices that falsely pitches local workers against foreign workers.

Singaporeans must wake up to the fact that indecent working conditions do not benefit the workers and their families and ultimately do not benefit Singaporean society.

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Furthermore, given Singapore’s economic influence and in view of the 2015 goal of an integrated Asean economic community. Singapore should – in practice – be in solidarity with the poorer and developing Asean Member States by encouraging the effective implementation of international labour standards to provide decent work for all and better living condition for their families.

Think Centre wishes all a Happy New Year!

Think Centre, an independent NGO in Singapore, aims to critically examine issues related to political development, democracy, rule of law, human rights and civil society.

Source: Think Centre

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