Over these years, I watched many foreign workers from China and the Philippines joined the company. Today, after 10 years, I’m still an assistant engineer with an insignificant jump in salary. The Pinoys and mainland Chinese who came a few years ago are now my engineers.
With the increasing number of foreign talents, I fear quitting my job as I will face stiff competition from the foreign talents who do not mind having a lower starting pay as they have less commitments in Singapore. Their families are back home, and they only have to fend for themselves.
Unlike these foreign workers, I am married with 2 children. One of them is in primary two and the other is still a toddler. My wife works part-time as we want to ensure the children do not feel neglected during their crucial growing up years. I stay with my parents who are reaching their silver years.
With my income, I cannot afford to buy a house yet as I need to ensure the food, bills and children’s education are fully taken care. On alternate days, I work part-time as a despatch rider to earn extra money. This is a typical reality for the lower-middle income families.
Although Singapore has always experience economic boom, I honestly feel we do not benefit from the success. The rising tide is not lifting any boat. Definitely not mysampan. Trying to build a family and live in Singapore is not as easy. With the rising cost of living, I feel my pay has not gone up at all.
Even, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong acknowledged this problem in his speech during 2011 Presidential Address Debate: “the most successful Singaporean will continue to do very well. The average Singaporeans will be able to make improvements in their lives and are much better off than the people in other countries. But at the lower end, incomes have risen far too slowly, especially in real terms.”
When the income of the richer households rise rapidly creating an expenditure cascade, there will be a surge in demand for bigger and better homes or luxurious cars. Inevitably, this pattern have resulted in new standards for those in the lower rung of the economic scale. Housing market is an example of this effect where median house prices become dependent on income inequality – that is the greater degrees of inequality may push up housing prices.
With skyrocketing HDB prices, the middle income group is having a difficult time to fund their safe haven. The excessive liberal foreign workers and immigration policies in the recent years are the culprits to the rising inequality and wage stagnation. High-income talent raises average incomes at the top while low-skilled foreign labour keeps wages at the bottom depressed.
Tackling the challenges of stagnant wages and rising inequality require more than just policy tweaks. A broader and more holistic rethinking of Singapore’s economic and social policies geared towards the well-being of Singaporeans will definitely receive a warm welcome.