A leading economist has questioned the government’s drive towards a strong Singaporean core, saying it can hinder growth in some industries
“One cannot place too [many] obstacles for the employers to exercise their own judgment,” he said at a recent dialogue organisation by the EBD Society and The Straits Times.
Lim is a professor emeritus at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. He is also former chairman of the National Wages Council (NWC).
While he acknowledged that the idea of a Singaporean core is interesting, he added that employers should be free to run their organisations catering to the market as opposed to any external direction or command.
He suggested more foreign talent be brought in to increase the country’s ailing productivity growth.
“Don’t forget these talents were brought up by other people. They spent their money investing in them. We only get the fruits of their labour.”
He added that the focus should be on high income foreign workers.
“Workers [earning] below S$1,000, S$2,000 — we should try not to have them. That’s the solution to our future.”
Lim also reprised his earlier calls for a compulsory minimum wage, saying that this would assist the efforts of the NWC and permit a more equal sharing of “our national cake, as it grows”.
Minister for Manpower, Lim Swee Say, was also at the dialogue. He refuted this call, saying that bringing in a minimum wage would create many problems.
“If you set the minimum wage too low, it doesn’t solve any problem. You set it too high, some workers lose their jobs,” he said.
Some employers may also decide to peg their workers’ pay to the minimum wage rather than offering them higher salaries, he added.
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