Thursday, January 27, 2011

So GE is coming soon

This is a short entry... I hope.

The usual daily activity for me is to check through the other blogsite links. While doing so, it dawned on me that I have been blogging since 2006. Wow... that's a good five to six years! Of course my readership pales in comparison to Mr Wang or mrbrown. It does not concern me because I never intended to compete with anyone.

So I started reading my first entry. Then the next and the next. I laughed at the cheeky entires when I blogged about games and missus. I treasured the innocence back then. Nothing heavy and thought-provoking. It started as a 'journal entry' blog which was hugely popular for startups - a capture of a significant footprint in one's life journey. Actually it was more like trying to fill in the pages. It felt like flipping through a photo album reminiscing past memories.

What started out as a journal entry blog turned into writings on more serious topics. Sometimes a bit of 'whinging'. Politics slowly crept in despite warnings from friends and spouse. Why? Why should anyone be afraid and silent to share his or her thoughts, views and opinions, be it politics, education or everyday life? We are not robots, mind you. We are walking, living and breathing mortals capable of intelligent speech and lightning-quick thoughts.

In this blog I am not character-assassinating an enemy, nor am I humiliating anyone. I definitely have no intention to slander a foe, nor do I desire to frame a person. So why are my friends warning me to stay away from politically-inclined topics?

I believe in sharing my thoughts and I love an active debate. It cultivates me to see beyond my often limited and shallow views and learn to accept that people are different. I begin to realise even though I may be right, it does not necessarily mean people can accept my 'rightness' or beliefs. But hey, we can still live together, can't we? We don't need to demolish our opponents, do we?

That is truly an important trait for anyone who wants to be a forward thinker in my personal opinion. Of course politicians might have an entirely different set of rules or idealogy. I can't comment because I am no politician.

Right... where was I? Oh, the coming General Elections (GE).

On 2 Aug 2006 I blogged about the upcoming hikes after the 2006 GE (read it here). While re-reading what I had written back then, I was eerily taken aback. Yes awfully and frightfully.

Each and every item I had predicted for the upcoming hikes after the GE actually came true. From transport to utilities to GST to ERP! And guess what is even scarier? Predicted responses from the main-stream media (MSM) were frighteningly spot-on.

What does this tell me?

There is nothing new. It is just a rehash of the same story, same old broken record playing the same tune...

...singing the same song,

...braying the same music,

...trumpeting the same achievements, and

...proclaiming the same fears.

Did you see the common denominator? The word is 'same'. From my personal view, nothing much has changed since the previous last two elections except the leadership changed from Goh CT to Lee HL, and SM Lee became MM Lee. The most wonderful achievement I can remember is when PM Lee HL announced the change of the civil servant work week from 5-1/2 days to 5 days. There was great rejoicing.

It saddens me because seriously not much has changed for the general folks. Inflation is still high, prices are still going up, wage gap is still growing, housing is still less affordable, and ministers' salaries are still increasing.

The crowning scariness of all scariness? The same people are still casting the same vote for the same mandate.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Indonesian maids' salary overtakes cleaning aunties' wages

More pay for new Indonesian maids by Saifulbahri Ismail
SINGAPORE - Indonesian domestic workers will soon cost more as agencies try to get more of them to work in Singapore.
MediaCorp has learnt that 17 employment agencies, who are major players in the market, will be increasing the monthly salaries of Indonesian domestic helpers from $380 to $450. The increment will take effect by this week and will only apply to new Indonesian maids.
Over the years, the supply of such helpers to Singapore has been dwindling as competition from places such as Hong Kong and Taiwan intensifies. Employment agencies indicate the shortage is severe. One solution - following a recent meeting between the agencies and maid suppliers from Indonesia - is to provide better salaries.
Nation Employment group director Desmond Chin said: "They are requesting us to match what is being paid to domestic helpers in Hong Kong, which is $650, and what is being in Taiwan, which is $800." - Today Online (read full report here)
Indonesian maids now have a minimal wage policy in Singapore but my local aunties and elderly folks cleaning toilets and clearing tables at hawker centres do not get them. Wow... just wow. *shakes head at the absurdity of it all*  

Don't get me wrong, I am not against the increase of maids' wages. I believe it is about time for them to have an increase as inflation grows. The grouse I have is just a few days ago, I have a good number of MPs debating regurgitating that it is unwise to have a minimal wage policy.

Does it make any sense to you? Yet these same MPs are not crying foul for increasing the wages of maids when it is locals who need the increase more. Maybe these MPs should be part of a ministry or portfolio to represent the domestic helpers. My union chief can jolly-well join them too.

I remember someone once said in response to increase the monthly allowance for destitute Singaporeans on Public Assistance Scheme in 2007,
"How much do you want? Do you want three meals in a hawker centre, food court or restaurant?"
To rub salt into the wound, I have these ministers bemoaning locals do not procreate enough to meet to the fertility rate. Was it our fault in the first place when a god once determined 'Two is Enough'?

The median wage in Singapore has not increased substantially for the longest time whereas inflation has rocketed sky-high. How does the government expect a dual-income working family, who really needs a maid to manage the kids or elderly parents, cope with the rising cost of living and the exorbitant childcare cost and the new wage increase for maids?

The government has been rehashing the story to the citizens that they should not expect a high salary lest we overprice ourselves out of competition in this global market. By the way a recent news article mentioned that 20% of the foreign talents here earning >SGD180,000 annually. They have been selling this idea that Singapore needs foreign labour because we locals do not want to do the menial work which these foreign resources take up. Then they continued braying that our economy depends on these foreign labour for sustainability because they are cheap.

But then maids are not cheap now, are they? So who is overpricing whom now? It sure is better to be a maid in Singapore as compared to a cleaning auntie or uncle as a matter of fact!

Let me compute the cost of hiring a new maid. It is not as cheap as what my ministers make us think foreign labour is cheap labour. Maybe compared to their million-dollar salary, it truly is worth peanuts. But I have digressed.

This is the estimated cost for a household hiring a maid:
  • Maid's salary - $380 monthly
  • Levy - $170 for those with kids
    I seriously don't know what this friggin levy is for because I don't get any service out of it except the government receives the money. Anything that happens to my maid is still my problem and cost.
  • Insurance - $350 yearly
  • Medical checkups - $60 yearly
  • This is aside from intangible housing cost, food cost, electricity and water utilities cost, medical leave when sick, doctor's fees, special occasions ang-pows (birthdays, Christmas, Chinese New Year) and transport EZlink top-ups.
    That's all I can think of for now. 
As compared to a cleaning contracting job which can go as low as SGD550 per month, I think maids have a way better deal. Maids don't pay for rent or utilities, mind you, or food and maintenance costs. But local aunties and uncles do.

The amusing thing is way back in 2007, the then SM Lee (now MM Lee) quoted,
"You know, the cure for all this talk is really a good dose of incompetent government. You get that alternative and you'll never put Singapore together again: Humpty Dumpty cannot be put together again... and your asset values will disappear, your apartment will be worth a fraction of what it is, your jobs will be in peril, your security will be at risk and our women will become maids in other people's countries, foreign workers." - (Straits Times, 5 April 2007)
I had blogged about it titled "Chambermaid vs foreign maid - got difference meh?" (read here).

Frankly to say, bring it on. I'd rather have my local aunties and mothers become my maids now. At least I do not have to pay for their utilities, or house them in my place. Not to mention paying for any airplane tickets for deportation and hefty fines should the foreign maids get pregnant. And I avoid paying this 'God knows what this levy fee is for'.Doesn't it sound scarily familiar to the mandatory annual TV and Radio license. *shivers*

So pray tell me again, are we better off with the cheap foreign labour coming in? Did my incumbent party forming the majority of the government give me a better standard of living? Did the daily cost of living come down to an acceptable standard equivalent to the median income, or perhaps the wages of the common man on the street increase? Did the GST really, really help the poor?

I sincerely wonder why they are representing me.
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