During the Budget debate in Parliament, some Members of Parliament (MP) gave suggestions on ways the government could address inequality. The suggestions include increasing taxes of the higher income brackets, giving vulnerable group more employment opportunities, and removing streaming in secondary school. (The last suggestion of streaming removal has already been announced and will be rolled out fully by 2024 after this debate.)
Current schemes like the Progressive Wage Model and Workfare Income Supplement Scheme are in place to raise the wages of lower-income individuals, but MPs questioned if those are enough to meet their needs in today’s context. There are also other schemes such as Adapt and Grow designed to help Singaporeans affected by economic slowdown and restructuring. However, the effectiveness of these schemes based on certain data metrics, like how many people were able to gain employment in a different industry after signing up, are not made known.
Another group who may need additional help in gaining employment is those with special needs and mental health challenges. It is suggested that business owners and employers could get government support in the form of tax reliefs or wage support to allow flexi-work arrangements to increase employment opportunities for this group.
Read the full article on Channel NewsAsia: Wealth tax, scrap secondary school streaming: MPs suggest measures to tackle inequality, social stratification
MPs spend their time on the ground with their respective constituencies. With the knowledge of ground sentiments, they assemble in Parliament sessions to push for legislative changes in the interest of their constituents. According to the Parliament website, MPs act as a bridge between the community and the Government. The content of such debates are good indicators of what the future policy changes may be, in response to the evolving needs of the people, and the changing context of the country.
Issues on social stratification and inequality have been often talked about in the last few years. Last year, sociologist Teo You Yenn wrote a book ‘This Is What Inequality Looks Like” based on her extensive field research on inequality in Singapore, and uncovered a side of Singapore that not many are aware of. It is time for the government to address the issues around income gap through different means. As various MPs have pointed out, current schemes are in place, but data on effectiveness should be studied closely to evaluate if they are working as they should.
Questions for further personal evaluation:
- Why is it important to keep up to date with Parliament debates?
- How does high social inequality affect society?
- ‘prudence’: being cautious
- ‘stigmatisation’: the action of describing or regarding someone or something as worthy of disgrace or great disapproval