Income gap is “socially unconscionable”
By Jeanette Tan | Yahoo! Newsroom
Turning to the wage gap, Koh spoke of economist Lim Chong Yah’s wage shock therapy as one of three existing ways to plug it, and that while he did not agree with Lim’s proposal, he agreed with the latter’s aim.
He said that the issue needed to be addressed “not through palliatives but by seeing what we can do to fundamentally alter the wages of the bottom 30 per cent of our people”.
Koh also opposed the view of economist Shandre Thangavelu, who was also at Thursday’s roundtable, that the income gap is “part of globalisation and technological change”.
The ambassador contended that Singapore’s practice of importing large numbers of cheap and unskilled labour depresses wages in its service and non-tradable sectors. He further noted that construction workers in Hong Kong are twice as productive as those in Singapore, and receive two-and-a-half times the income earned here.
His view echoed those expressed by IPS senior adjunct fellow Yeoh Lam Kheong and Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy dean Kishore Mahbubani earlier on Thursday, who both called for a refinement of the import of new citizens and PRs to target more skilled labour.
“There are many equity issues we need to look at in Singapore, although I agree that we have done many things right. We just need to improve on a tremendously successful story,” Koh concluded.
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