Singapore must manage wage disparity

Trade and industry minister Chan Chun Sing said equipping workers with skills for the future is crucial in managing wage disparity in the country.
By: | January 4, 2021

Instead of “resorting to populist actions like elsewhere to either shut out foreign competition or conducting unsustainable redistribution of a shrinking pie”, Singapore should equip its people with skills that are relevant for the future, thereby enabling them to compete globally.  

“The real competition is not among the local and foreign workers or companies here in Singapore. The real competition for our five million people is with the seven billion people outside Singapore,” he said. 

In addition, he advocated for “a collective social conscience”, where those who have succeeded help those who have not. “We must take tangible and sustained actions to level up our people and companies for the long term.” 

Besides wage disparity, Chan also highlighted another challenge the country faces: complacency. He said there is a need to rally people to action by acknowledging the challenges, continuously guarding against complacency, and developing a nation of people and businesses that are not afraid of global competition but one which seeks to thrive in it. 

“We must assume that we can easily be overtaken by others who are hungrier, and who can leapfrog us,” he said, adding that this has happened to some sectors such as ICT, finance and advanced manufacturing. 

READ: Singapore government distributes over S$1 billion in payouts in 2020 to co-fund employee wages

“We will not just play defensive to try to get back to where we were. Instead, we are constantly challenging ourselves to come up with new ideas and value propositions to capture new markets ahead of others amidst the pandemic,” he said. 

Chan was speaking at the Economic Development Board (EDB) Society’s 30th anniversary commemoration event, which was held in a hybrid format ahead of a closed-door dialogue with the society’s alumni.