1. Singapore in maximising its GDP growth went overboard to import foreign workers. In 2007, of the 235,000 jobs added in 2007, six in 10 went to foreigners. The ratio rose last year, with foreigners taking seven in 10 of the 222,000 new jobs.
2. Importing foreign workers in large numbers has worsened the income gap. The depression of low wage workers' income, Prof Hui believes will lead to social problems.
3. 5000 Singaporeans seek residency elsewhere. These are usually the higher skilled workers.
4. His solution is to tighten the foreign influx, accept moderate growth and allow dual citizenship to retain talent.
For those reading my blog there is nothing new in Prof Hui's views except that he is an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and his views appeared in the Straits Times.
With the income gap that is so large, our problem is one of wealth distribution. There is no point in maximising GDP growth when a large segment of the population does not benefit from the growth and have to shoulder the disproportionate burden of the side effects of such growth in the form of rising cost of living and depressed wages. A few years ago, when the govt discovered that the wages of many Singaporeans have fallen below subsistence level, they implemented Workfare to keep these Singaporeans afloat - just enough for food, housing and transport - but it is capped at $100 per month and workers have to:
- Be a Singapore Citizen; and
- Have a monthly salary of $1,500 or less; and
- Be above 35 years of age; and
- Stay in a property with an Annual Value of not more than $10,000; and
- Have worked at least three months in any six month period in the calendar year for half the payout, or at least six months in the calendar year for the full payout.
Workfare is a small patch so that the PAP govt can avoid major policy changes and keep the system going. But what is really so appealing about a system that have Singaporeans working full time jobs to stay just above the subsistence level?
The main reason why the PAP has not done more is because we have a political system in which the people whose benefits have been traded off suffer in silence because they have no voice and can do nothing in this climate of fear. If you look at the Prof Hui's table on the widening wage gap, it is no coincidence that every country above us has more political freedom and democracy.