In this year’s National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong focused on key societal issues that have surfaced recently. These include lower-wage workers, foreign labour, and racial harmony. The speech went in-depth on the measures and actions the Government will be implementing to resolve these issues.
Here are the winners and losers of the 2021 National Day Rally Speech.
Winners #1 Delivery Workers
The unsung heroes of the pandemic, delivery workers are essential workers who help ensure the timely deliveries of our packages and meals as most people stayed at home. For those who recall last year’s National Day Parade, delivery workers were also a big topic as one of them gate-crashed the National Day mobile column.
This time around, PM Lee singled out delivery workers as a group requiring more employment protection. Being treated “just like employees” will allow these delivery workers to receive the necessary employer coverage. He specifically spoke about protection in the form of Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions and coverage under the Workplace Injury Compensation Act (WICA).
Winners #2 Lower Wage Workers
The Government has been providing extra help to lower-wage workers and lower-income families with various support schemes. Despite the support, the pandemic was most challenging for lower-wage workers due to a lack of job stability and lesser savings.
To provide more support, the Government has extended the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) to more sectors. Currently, the PWM applies for cleaners, security guards, landscaping workers and lift maintenance workers. This will now be extended to retail, food services and waste management sectors. To cover other lower-wage workers not within these sectors, PWM will also be extended to specific occupations across all industries. This includes administrative assistance and drivers.
Additionally, the Government has also increased their expenditure on Workfare Income Supplement Scheme. This scheme aims to reduce taxation on the lower-income groups by topping up their CPF in kind and cash. The new adjustment will cover younger lower wage income workers, as the age requirement drops from 35 to 30 years old.
Winners #3 Minority Workers
Established in 2006, Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) has established a set of advisory guidelines for workplace discrimination. Previously, when companies do not abide by this guideline, MOM will counsel these companies and issue administrative penalties.
However, PM Lee stressed that workplace discriminatory behaviour is an ongoing concern, which includes against women, race, and languages. In order to give more protection to minority workers and reduce discriminatory employment practices, the Government will legalise TAFEP guidelines. This helps to give more teeth to the rules.
Winners #4 Companies Mentioned In A Positive Light
Every year, the National Day Rally speech (and other national speeches such as the Budget) will include special mentions on exceptional individuals and corporates. This is done to not only showcase Singaporean’s exceptionalism, but also the possibilities and potential of our people.
This year, the start-up scene received a positive shoutout from PM Lee. Focusing on new economic opportunities, prominent young companies such as Carro, SecretLab, and Caoursell were highlighted as the shining star for entrepreneurship success. Hegen, a baby bottle producer pushing its overseas expansion, was another starlet that had considerable airtime during the National Day Rally speech.
Winners #5 Airlines And Hotels Industry (potentially)
With 8 out of 10 Singaporeans now fully vaccinated, Singapore is better placed to open the economy. As one of the first mentions in the speech, opening up the economy is essential not just for economic growth but sustaining Singaporean’s livelihoods.
The plans to help Singapore recovery includes positioning Singapore as a business hub and attracting foreign investments. As a hub, being porous and welcoming global businesses on our shore would also mean that business travels and stays would have to resume.
The news of Singapore being ready to open its doors for international business signifies the gradual return of customers for both the airline and hotel industry.
Losers #1 Delivery Platform Providers
Delivery platform providers have been in the spotlight ever since the pandemic due to the rising demand for delivery services. However, most of the delivery riders are considered gig economy workers, and as such, they are self-employed. This means that such gig workers do not receive employment protection in the form of CPF contributions or work injury coverage.
A regulatory shift in having to recognise such gig workers as employees will likely lead to greater administrative requirements and higher costs for delivery platforms.
Losers #2 Companies In The Retail, F&B, Waste Management, And Logistics Sector
As the Government zooms in on uplifting the salaries of lower wage workers, the PWM will now encompass sectors such as retail, F&B and waste management.
Covering both Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PR), PWM forces the industry to adopt a ladder, paying workers more over time as they build their skillset in a transparent manner.
The increased scope of PWM will start with the retail sector first, and progress to food services and waste management. Additionally, PWM will also cover occupation-specific roles such as administrative assistants and drivers.
The implementation of PWM will inevitably increase the overall labour cost for companies in these sectors if they have not already complied with the minimum wage. However, a potential positive is that it incentivises more workers to go into these industries, which tend to be shunned.
Losers #3 Companies Hiring Foreigners
All companies that hire foreigners will now have to pay local employees a minimum Local Qualifying Salary (LQS). Currently, companies only need to pay the LQS of $1,400 to a selected number of employees to receive a proportional number of S-passes or work permit quota.
This measure will be tightened. Now, companies that hire even a single foreigner will be required to pay LQS for all local employees.
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