THE new recommendations by the National Wages Council (NWC) for low-wage workers should be implemented not just by unionised companies, but non-unionised ones too, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Halimah Yacob said yesterday.
She said the NWC's proposal to give workers earning under $1,000 a permanent pay increase of at least $50 this year was 'timely and necessary'; the percentage increase may not be significant for someone in that income bracket, but the dollar quantum would be, she added.
She was speaking to reporters at the National Family Celebrations (NFC) held at Suntec City Convention Centre and featuring musical and dance performances and a family game show for parent-child pairs.
The NWC's recommendation on Thursday marked the first time since 1984 that it had proposed a minimum quantum of pay increase for workers.
Asked whether $50 was enough, especially for larger families, Madam Halimah said: 'Frankly speaking, no dollar quantum is sufficient when we talk about low-income families.'
She added, however, that it was a starting point.
On whether the pay hike could cushion low-income families against last month's inflation rate of 5.4 per cent, she replied that it ought to be seen in the context of the rest of the measures to help this group, such as the Workfare Income Supplement, GST vouchers, utility rebates and other forms of aid.
She also said the pay hike should not be a one-off affair, but a yearly one.
Then, with one eye on employers who would have to shoulder a larger wage bill, she suggested that the wage increase not be implemented overnight.
'Some companies might say they cannot carry the burden, and will likely retrench their workers - the very ones we want to take care of,' she said.
So wages should be increased 'in a sustainable manner', with more going to the basic wage for low-income workers, Madam Halimah said.
More than 3,000 tertiary students were at the NFC, which has been held annually since 1985.
They viewed screenshots of Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam's personal tips on family issues, which he shared in response to questions from youth.
National University of Singapore student Soh Yi Da, 23, said the tips were insightful, and gave a glimpse into his life.
Mr Tharman's responses can be viewed on the NFC's Family First! Facebook page.