We’ve bought into the government’s rhetoric if we are looking at this simply in terms of locals vs foreigners. The issue here is that the government has allowed Singaporeans’ wages to be depressed when they opened the floodgates for foreigners to come into Singapore in 2005. Having foreigners in itself isn’t the problem because we need foreigners.
What the problem is, is a lack or balanced policies to ensure that the wages of Singaporeans do not get depressed. The government has allowed the rhetoric to be played out against foreigners so that we won’t realise the basic issue here – that wages are not fair across the board.
The thing is – because Singaporeans are not paid fair wages, we’ve learnt to look at the wages of other on unfair terms. If we think that we cannot get a fair wage, we do not think others deserve a fair wage until our unmet need is met.
Right now, we are blaming the foreigners are taking our pay away? Do they have the power to do that? No. The government has the power to ensure that companies pay them a low wage and thus match our pay against their low wages. The government attribute any wage change to a demand-supply equation when the government has full control as to how wages can grow, or not. Yet, the government keeps silent on this issue while they allow Singaporeans to be pitched against the foreigners. They are quite happy to let that happen, as long as we do not realise the real issue that wages across the board are depressed.
If we have any smarts, we would be arguing for the government to raise wages across the board, and not to discriminate against the wages of foreigners.
Do you know why the government is so happy to make such quick and swift changes to the policies to curb the influx of the foreign workers? They want to act swiftly, because while we are angry with the foreigners, and think that the foreigners are a problem, they can resolve this – by limiting the numbers of foreigners – and hope we won’t think deeper into the problem.
Because otherwise, we would realise that the real reason why we are angry is that they’ve allowed our wages to stagnate. So, right now, they hope that if they play their cards right, we would forget about our depressed wages.
But they didn’t count on anybody to strike. They didn’t count on the workers from China to throw their equation into imbalance. And because, and thanks to the workers from China, we are given a fresh opportunity to relook wages – and not just the wages of foreigners, but if we allow ourselves to think deeper, this is also an opportunity for us to think about how we can rally together to push the government to increase our wages.
Why do you think the government acted so swiftly to punish the workers from China? They are really afraid that we would realise that inherently, our wages are also depressed because of the wages of the foreigner workers. And because the government is jerking into action left, right, centre now, we are able to see more clearly how indeed, our wages are unfairly manipulated by them.
At this point, we are given another opportunity to write a wrong. We can either continue to pitch the fight as one between locals and foreigners, or we can band together and direct our attention on the perpetrator of the whole discourse – the government and their lack of a coordinated policy to protect wages across the board, while leaving wage growth, or lack thereof to the demand-supply forces which they could have controlled as well.
Question is, will we learn to look beyond ourselves and to see the plight of all of us, in this together? Do we want to continue to pitch ourselves against one another, because the government has happily allowed it, or will we wake up and band together?