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Singapore Budget 2018: MP calls for employer CPF rate to stay constant with age
MANDATORY family-care leave and employer Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions that stay constant with age were among the ideas that Members of Parliament offered in support of workers on the first day of the Budget debate on Tuesday.
Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), one of eight labour MPs who spoke, said union leaders "feel strongly that it is about time" to set up a committee to review employers' CPF contributions for older workers.
Currently, this contribution decreases with age, from 17 per cent for those up to the age of 55, to 7.5 per cent for those above 65.
Noting that Singapore has moved away from a seniority-based wage structure - one original reason for these age bands - Mr Zainal proposed having a universal rate till the age of 65 instead.
To support low-wage workers in particular, he suggested making the Annual Wage Supplement or 13th month bonus mandatory, as "the very group that needs it most is not receiving it".
Similarly, while most employers do offer medical benefits beyond the statutory requirements, low-wage workers are hurt the most by the Employment Act's limited medical coverage, he added.
Employers should be required to pay the full cost of non-chronic outpatient treatment at polyclinics or company-appointed clinics, including not just consultation, but also medication, he said.
Another group of workers for whom MPs spoke up were freelancers. Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC) called for stricter regulation of third-party platforms which match freelancers to clients. Such intermediaries include ride-sharing apps such as Grab.
"As these intermediaries gain bigger market share, they also grow in power and if left unchecked, they can dictate tougher terms over the freelancers, and even consumers using their platform," he said.
The government could consider getting these intermediaries to take on more responsibilities, he added: "They should not exploit freelancers by not paying them promptly, or make sudden changes to the pay structure or commission scheme."
Mr Ang was part of a tripartite workgroup on self-employed persons, the recommendations of which the government accepted this month; details will be unveiled in the Committee of Supply debate.
With the ageing population weighing on MPs' minds, caregiving and healthcare were other areas of focus.
Desmond Choo (Tampines GRC) and Nominated MP K Thanaletchimi suggested making eldercare or family-care leave mandatory.
Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh went further, saying: "If we recognise full-time caregiving of seniors as unpaid work, then it is not far-fetched to consider them as low-wage employees who need income supplement."
Caregivers could be given income support via the existing Workfare Income Supplement Scheme, which tops up the pay of low-wage workers, he added.
He and Ms Thanaletchimi also had suggestions for the healthcare industry. Associate Professor Goh called for nurses' wages to be raised, in the larger context of the gender pay gap.
Ms Thanaletchimi, who is president of the Healthcare Services Employees' Union, had proposals such as moving from academic qualifications to purely skills-based remuneration, and setting up a healthcare academy for skills training.
As for workplace safety and health, Melvin Yong (Tanjong Pagar GRC) called for regulatory changes such as introducing a reporting regime for near-miss accidents.
For more Budget 2018 stories visit bt.sg/budget18