There was a raging debate in Singapore a few weeks back following a suggestion by a well respected leader about a raise in low wages. But unfortunately, foreign domestic workers were excluded from the discussions.
It’s a renowned professor of economics, Lim Chong Yah, founder and former chairman of the National Wage Council and present director of the Economic Growth Centre of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University who recommended a drastic 3-year plan raising lowest wages by 50% by 2015 and freezing meanwhile the highest wages. It should be noted that Pr Lim is also a member of the presidential council for minority rights. It is easy to understand why many people from private companies managers to government officials have emerged to counter Prof Lim’s proposal despite his undeniable excellent reputation of an eminent wise and very respectable man.
Eventually, the National Wage Council has decided in its 2012-2013 guidelines published in May 2012 to recommend a 50 SGD increase of the monthly salary of low wage workers.
But from the very first day this matter of tackling the income inequality in Singapore was raised, it was said that domestic helpers were excluded from the debate: why so? Any reason to set aside a work force without which the local economy would collapse? Why so when Singapore looks more and more isolated among Asean countries in the way they treat domestic help despite real efforts to improve the protection of this vulnerable labor force? Hong-Kong, Taiwan and most recently Indonesia have imposed a minimum wage for domestic help. This decision of the Singaporean authorities is hard to understand and some NGOs have expressed their disagreement.
In a context where there is still no minimum wage and no rule either, it is hard to say for an employer how much the salary of a domestic helper should be. However, a few informations may help in making the decision.