Reflection on Labour Day
Labour was a big thing in the early part of the last century. The workers traded their muscles for food. They included the peasants and farmers and the industrial workers. Today we are talking about skilled workers and not much of labourers. Labourers are nearly non existent in the Singapore context. There are labourers, but mostly foreigners. This is a great achievement that we may find Labour Day a misnomer. Our workers have progressed up the skilled and economic ladder and are much more better off than in the past. In 1965, the average wages of a worker was more like $400 pm. Today it is like $800 pm with skilled workers getting $1,500 before overtime. A higher skilled worker could get $2,000 and the supervisory level about $3,000. A clerical staff was earning $400 and now $1,800. All these is good on paper if we don't factor in inflation. Are our workers that much better off than their predecessors? The biggest portion of their income has gone to housing and transportation, the basic needs. A 3 rm flat used to cost $7k and now $200k, or 30 times what it used to be. Their salary is at best 4 or 5 times what it was before. But overall, living conditions and quality of life have taken leaps and bounds for the better. The upper end of the labour curve, or the brain labour, the managers and professionals too took a bigger leap forward. Their gains are more significant, from $3k to $10k/$100k, depending on how high up one is. This professional and senior managerial group enjoys the biggest improvement in their income and lifestyle befitting that of a first world talented manpower. We have many who are very comfortable in where they are and with income equivalent to those in America and European countries. But in certain areas there are some misgivings. Our top echelon of talents is somehow still found wanting. For so many years, many of our establishments still found our locals not up to mark and the necessity to fill those positions by foreigners is still a norm. It is quite sad to see the top notch local financial professionals still unable to fit the shoes of our large local corporations. Are they duds or really that incompetent? Quite an embarrassing thought really. Why are we still unable to find our local boys and girls good enough to fill CEO positions and why are foreigners found to be better? Perhaps we should continue to celebrate Labour Day for as long as our local professionals are still regarded as labour, in a way, until the need to replace them with foreign talents is no longer needed. I wonder when that day will come or will never come. In the meantime we continue to build our local corporations into giants competing in the international arena and find suitable foreigners to run them. I wonder how our corporations could have grown to those size on local talents' contribution but then found that they have outgrown our local talents and needing foreign talents to pick up from that level. And the foreign talents rode in like knights in shining armour to teach our local boys and girls how to run the corporations that they have started and built up. They are have skills of gods acquired from heaven.