THE WORKERS’ PARTY LABOUR DAY MESSAGE: 1 MAY 2023
Greater protections and preparation for workers needed to weather the storms ahead
Last Wednesday (26 April 2023), the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), in its semi-annual report on the Singapore economy, announced that Singapore’s gross domestic product (GDP) for 2023 is expected to grow between 0.5% and 2.5%, slower than last year’s 3.6%.
Less sanguine employment outlook
Singaporeans are already living through one of the most rapid cost of living rises in recent history, eroding the purchasing power of their wages. MAS reported that headline inflation for 2023 is expected to “come in higher” at 5.5% to 6.5%, reflecting the increasing price of transport, property and the effect of the 1% GST hike. The potentially worsening macroeconomic situation in Singapore could spell a more bumpy ride ahead for Singaporean wage earners.
Generative AI and its impact on workers
There is another non-cyclical trend that may add to the pressure on workers. This has to do with the proliferation of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technologies like ChatGPT that are capable of producing human-like content in response to simple input prompts. The verdict is still out as to how worried knowledge workers should be about these developments and whether generative AI will create new jobs in place of what may be lost.
What we can be certain of is — with Singapore’s ambition to be a Smart Nation, always at the forefront of technology and prioritising workplace productivity — we will not shy away from more widespread adoption of AI technologies.
The question then is, are we doing enough to position our workers to benefit from AI and similar innovations, rather than becoming its victims? How can we use such innovations to raise worker productivity and pay, and help our SMEs to grow and thrive?
Greater assurance and protection for all workers
Whether unemployment is due to cyclical factors or is a result of longer-term secular trends, better protection for all workers will be paramount.
The Workers’ Party has been calling for a redundancy insurance scheme, most recently at the Budget 2023 debate. The Workers’ Party published a policy paper on Redundancy Insurance in 2016. We believe that a redundancy insurance scheme will not only ease the immediate financial pressure that retrenched workers face, but will also provide an automatic stabiliser to the economy, for example, through sustained consumer spending and mortgage payments until workers find new employment.
We note that on 17 April 2023 in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong indicated that the Government may introduce “unemployment support” for workers who are forced to leave their jobs due to retrenchment, but will link this support to training and job search “to preserve the work ethos of the workforce.”
We urge the Government to move forth with implementing a redundancy insurance scheme to provide greater assurance and protection for our workers.
What WP will continue to do
There is much more to do for Singapore to progress towards providing better job security and opportunities for workers. The Workers’ Party will continue to present responsible policy proposals in Parliament to move our society forward.
I wish all Singaporean workers a Happy Labour Day!
Leader of the Opposition & Secretary-General, The Workers’ Party