Battling rising costs? NTUC’s Ng Chee Meng: “Make sure workers have good jobs and skills.”

By February 9, 2022Current
Ng Chee Meng

TL;DR – Leave no one behind.

Did you know that Singapore’s economy shrank by more than 5 per cent in the worst decline since our independence when the circuit breaker (eeks) was implemented in 2020? Two years on, some workers in sectors like tourism are still struggling. Many Singaporeans are concerned about cost of living issues… But fret not, our new Finance Minister Lawrence Wong has shared that the Singapore Budget, to be announced on Feb 18, will continue to provide support for sectors that face difficulties amid the Covid-19 pandemic and help Singaporeans manage concerns over the cost of living! While the wave of Omicron infections around the world remains an uncertainty, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is cautiously optimistic about Singapore’s economic recovery in the year ahead.

Angpows? Or better jobs and wages?

While we are all excited about the coming Budget 2022 (angpows maybe?) to see what kind of support is on the way, NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng believes the best way to beat inflation and sustainably cope with the cost of living is by increasing productivity and making sure workers have good jobs and skills. Better skills, better wages to battle rising costs. Compared to handouts, a good job is truly the best safeguard in the face of rising costs of living! Agree?

“The answer to dealing with the cost of living is to ensure our workers maintain a good job and earn a good wage. In the process, NTUC wants to step in to see how to upgrade workers’ skills so they can be prepared to seize new opportunities and gain better work prospects,” Mr Ng shared with the media on 7 February 2022 to share NTUC’s focus for 2022.

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“NTUC social enterprises will help members and workers “stretch their dollar” and cushion the impact of the cost of living,” Ng Chee Meng

Ng promises that NTUC social enterprises will help members and workers stretch their dollar and cushion the impact of the cost of living. He also said that NTUC FairPrice supermarket will announce initiatives to help workers cope with the increased costs of living soon. Now, that’s something to look forward to! Well, NTUC has always been helping fellow Singaporeans, especially when cost pressures are felt. For many, many years now. FairPrice Housebrand was introduced in 1985 to offer better value and savings, and make essential items more affordable. These are on average, priced 10 to 15% lower but yet are as good in quality with comparable leading products!

NTUC FairPrice

C’mon, have you even tried the NTUC FairPrice housebrand potato chips? Wonderwall.sg

 

NTUC is quietly supporting lower-wage workers and their families.

In 2021, almost $8 million was raised as part of the NTUC-U Care Fund, benefiting 35,000 lower-income union members and their families, which include 15,000 children.

The U Care Fund was established in 2009 to help struggling union members. For more than a decade, $113 million has been disbursed to lower-income families, with the help of various unions, associations and social enterprises.

The year ahead may remain challenging for our workers, especially those who are earning less or whose incomes were affected by Covid-19. NTUC pledges to continue to look after and protect different workforce segments in 2022. “The worker groups include the lower-wage, PMEs, the self-employed, older workers, youth, and women,” Ng shared.

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So what are these proposals?

To support lower-wage workers

Leave no one behind. The implementation and expansion of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) to more sectors will be quickened. First mooted by NTUC in June 2012, the PWM enables workers to achieve sustainable wage increases through the acquisition of better skills and higher productivity. Now, NTUC is looking into new sectors like the pest management and strata and facilities management!

A voice for lower-wage workers

To support Professionals, Managers and Executives

Ultimately, growth and opportunities must be fair, inclusive, and beneficial for all Singaporeans. NTUC and its partners will look at key areas such as fair workplace opportunities for local PMEs, strengthening the Employment Pass framework and process in favour of local PMEs, and supporting local PMEs who are involuntarily unemployed. The Government will also enshrine TAFEP guidelines into law so that appropriate penalties can be imposed on those who do not practise fair hiring and employment processes!

To support self-employed workers

An Advisory Committee on Platform Workers was announced during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally last month. It wants to improve retirement and housing adequacy of such workers, ensure they have adequate financial protection in case of work injury, and close the gap in bargaining power between such workers and the platforms that they work for. For self-employed persons, NTUC hopes to look at improving working terms and conditions and medical and injury coverage.

To support older workers

For older workers, NTUC said it would look at the next steps in raising of the statutory retirement and re-employment ages to 65 and 70 and the increase to the CPF contributions. This will support older workers to continue working for longer if they wish to do so.

To support youths

The youths are not forgotten! NTUC will continue to support youths through programmes such as internships to give them a good head start!

To support women workers

To support working women, NTUC’s training and placement ecosystem aims to help through targeted assistance and dedicated job matching.  For women workers juggling career and family obligations, Ng said that the union is advocating for these workers to have flexible work arrangements. Am sure this will much-appreciated and allow more women to rejoin the workforce!

Having a good job is important to counter challenges ahead

Ng acknowledged that higher costs of living this year would be a concern among many workers in Singapore, and that having a good job is important to counter these challenges. “Essentially, our focus in 2022 is to upskill our workers in anticipation of a rebound in the economy, and then we can move full steam ahead into Industry 4.0.”

Rising costs? Ng Chee Meng says, “Make sure workers have good jobs and skills.” Well-said!

Cover image PM Lee Hsien Loong and NTUC Secretary General Ng Chee Meng at an annual Lunar New Year visit to appreciate workers via

 

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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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