Sectoral Minimum Wages (MOM)

I urge the Government to look into introducing sectoral minimum wages under the Progressive Wage Model to more domestic-oriented industry sectors, so as to ensure that Singaporeans in those sectors are paid wages that are enough for themselves and their families to live on.

Committee of Supply Debate, Ministry of Manpower, 9 March 2015

Mdm Chair,

A minimum wage aims to protect employees from exploitation and enables them to afford the basic necessities of life. But critics say it makes lower skilled workers uncompetitive, resulting in job losses as companies move overseas or hire fewer workers.

There is no national minimum wage in Singapore. Salaries are subject to negotiation and mutual agreement between employers and employees or the trade union representing the employees.

However, the wages of those in the lowest income group are not enough to cope with the high cost of living in Singapore. According to the Household Expenditure Survey, there are almost 85,000 resident households with a monthly income of less than $1,000. Yet these households spend an average of $1,461 per month – or 46% more than they earn.

The Progressive Wage Model is being implemented for the cleaning and security sectors, and soon the landscaping sector. However, these are not the only sectors which suffer from the malaise of low wages. Low wage jobs can be found in other domestic-oriented sectors like F&B, retail and personal services. In these sectors, jobs are usually performed locally, for customers who are in Singapore, so there is less risk that such jobs will move overseas even if wages rise.

The Finance Minister pointed out in his Budget Statement that productivity growth in the domestic-oriented sector is less than a fifth of that for outward-oriented sectors, yet employment growth has been mainly in the former. This lends weight to the need for these sectors to be upgraded to improve their productivity.

I urge the Government to look into introducing sectoral minimum wages under the Progressive Wage Model to more domestic-oriented industry sectors, so as to ensure that Singaporeans in those sectors are paid wages that are enough for themselves and their families to live on.

Effectiveness of Jobs Bank (MOM)

The Jobs Bank portal was launched in July 2014. It now boasts of thousands of jobs postings, registered employers and Singaporean jobseekers. However, none of these point to its effectiveness in meeting the objective of ensuring that Singaporeans are fairly considered for jobs before firms hire foreigners. This is a key plank of the Fair Consideration Framework.

Committee of Supply Debate, Ministry of Manpower, 9 March 2015

Jobs Bank

Mdm Chair,

The Jobs Bank portal was launched in July 2014. It now boasts of thousands of jobs postings, registered employers and Singaporean jobseekers. However, none of these point to its effectiveness in meeting the objective of ensuring that Singaporeans are fairly considered for jobs before firms hire foreigners. This is a key plank of the Fair Consideration Framework.

I would like to make some observations about the Jobs Bank and provide some suggestions for improvement to meet this important objective.

First, the outcomes of the Jobs Bank postings do not seem to be effectively tracked. MOM should require employers who post advertisements on the Jobs Bank to subsequently indicate whether those positions were filled, and if so, by Singaporeans or foreigners. It should be done whether or not the successful candidate came through the Jobs Bank.

This will enable MOM to track what proportion of jobs in a particular company or industry were filled by Singaporeans or foreigners. This will help track those companies’ compliance with the Fair Consideration Framework, and will also provide the Government with more detailed data about what types of jobs have local skills shortages, so as to better plan education and training policies.

Second, employers are not required to provide any evidence that they fairly considered Singaporeans for the post. They just need to advertise on the Jobs Bank for 14 calendar days before applying for an Employment Pass. In other jurisdictions, including Hong Kong, employers are required to state justifications for employing a foreign candidate and the reasons why the post cannot be filled by locals, before an employment pass is issued.

Third, S-pass applications do not require a prior Jobs Bank posting. These should be included as well, so that Singaporean PMETs have greater opportunities to apply and be fairly considered for these positions.

Government surveillance on citizens (MHA)

What safeguards are in place to ensure that surveillance on individuals, particularly Singaporeans, is done only for legitimate purposes, like security operations or criminal investigations? How is the data and intelligence protected to ensure that it is not misused or leaked by those who have access to it? Which of our laws authorise surveillance of individuals who are not targets of security operations or criminal investigations? And lastly, what independent oversight, like the Courts or Parliamentary Committees, are in place to guard against abuse?

Committee of Supply Debate, Ministry of Home Affairs, 5 March 2015

Mdm Chair,

In 2013, a scandal broke out in the US over reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been collecting telephone data of millions of its citizens, and had access to the servers of several technology companies, including Facebook and Google, to track their customers’ communications. The scandal soon widened to Europe when it was reported that GCHQ, the UK spy agency, had tapped fibre-optic cables carrying global communications data and shared it with the NSA.

Both governments justified this mass surveillance in the name of national security and insisted they were lawful. But many people were upset that they were unaware that their private communications were being monitored. Some questioned their legality and the insufficient oversight by their courts and legislature.

Singapore is a technologically advanced country which places a high priority on security. Singaporeans who have been following these developments in the US and Europe may be concerned that they may be subject to similar types of surveillance here. The Personal Data Protection Act governs the collection, use and disclosure of individuals’ personal data by organisations, but the Government is exempt from this Act.

I understand and agree with the need for some surveillance for legitimate security purposes to keep our country safe, but I have several concerns:

What safeguards are in place to ensure that surveillance on individuals, particularly Singaporeans, is done only for legitimate purposes, like security operations or criminal investigations?

How is the data and intelligence protected to ensure that it is not misused or leaked by those who have access to it?

Which of our laws authorise surveillance of individuals who are not targets of security operations or criminal investigations?

And lastly, what independent oversight, like the Courts or Parliamentary Committees, are in place to guard against abuse?

Responding to China’s territorial claims (MFA)

Should the actions of China in the South China Sea infringe on the freedom of navigation and overflight for ASEAN members, including Singapore, what will Singapore do on its own as well as in solidarity with ASEAN to respond and protect our interests?

Committee of Supply debate: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 5 March 2015

Mdm Chair,

Recent years have seen an escalation of tension over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. China has been increasingly assertive in its claims to islands that are hundreds of miles from its own borders but within the Exclusive Economic Zones of our ASEAN neighbours, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam. China also claims waters within its self-declared “Nine Dash Line” demarcation, which envelopes almost the entire South China Sea.

To assert its claims, China has been building airstrips and facilities, and reclaiming land, on and around these features. As The Economist[1] put it, the extent and speed of China’s “building boom” on the disputed islands flout the spirit of the declaration on the conduct of parties it signed in 2002 with ASEAN.

Singapore is not a claimant to any of these disputes and has maintained that these disputes can only be settled by the parties directly concerned.

I appreciate that Singapore seeks to build friendly relations with all countries, including China. However, I am concerned that China’s extensive and robust territorial claims may, now or in the future, infringe on freedom of navigation and overflight for vessels and planes travelling to and from Singapore. This could impact our trade with the world, which is a vital, and also our security.

The Minister has said before in Parliament that “only a united ASEAN can credibly play a central role in engaging major powers towards the common goal of promoting regional peace, stability and prosperity.”

I would therefore like to ask, should the actions of China in the South China Sea infringe on the freedom of navigation and overflight for ASEAN members, including Singapore, what will Singapore do on its own as well as in solidarity with ASEAN to respond and protect our interests?

[1] “Reclamation marks”, The Economist, 28 February 2015.

——-

Map of South China Sea
Photo credit: BBC News

Budget 2015 Speech

More flexibility should be given to CPF members to start receiving CPF payouts as early as age 60, if they need to, so as to help those who are not able to find work at that age. The CPF Payout Eligibility Age should be de-linked from the Retirement or Re-employment Age, to provide more certainty for seniors.

Mdm Speaker,

The DPM and Finance Minister has laid out the key thrusts for the Government in his Budget statement. My speech will focus on retirement adequacy and the CPF scheme in particular.

The CPF scheme has a long history in Singapore that pre-dates our independence. The Central Provident Fund Bill was introduced by the Singapore Progressive Party in the Legislative Council in 1951, while Singapore was still a British Colony. The CPF scheme provides a mandatory retirement savings plan for local workers. It is a “defined contribution” scheme, whereby every member takes out only what he has contributed. This has helped the Government avoid the heavy burden of Budget-financed pension liabilities that many other countries face.

While CPF provides a basic payout for retirees, it does not assure full retirement adequacy, particularly for those in the lowest income groups, including home-makers and people with disabilities.

Minimum Sum

The Minimum Sum requirement, which has been renamed to “Retirement Sum” by the CPF Advisory Panel, was introduced in 1987. It prevents CPF members from withdrawing their entire CPF savings in one lump sum when they retire. They are only allowed to withdraw amounts in excess of the Minimum Sum, plus another $5,000, at age 55.

This has been deeply unpopular among many Singaporeans. Many feel that since the money in our CPF accounts belongs to us, why should the Government control when and how much we can withdraw? “We’re not children after all,” some would say. A recent poll by Channel NewsAsia found that the majority of respondents would like a choice to withdraw all of their CPF money at age 55.[1]

I empathise and identify with these sentiments. I too would like to be able to withdraw all my CPF when I turn 55. Apart from paying off day-to-day expenses, I feel confident of being able to manage my own money well and not squander it. However, the reality for me, and I think many other working Singaporeans, is that if not for the forced savings that CPF has imposed, we would probably have saved much less for retirement.

As pointed out by Mr Donald Low from the LKY School of Public Policy in a commentary in The Straits Times last week, faced with a choice between an immediate reward and a larger delayed benefit, people often choose the former.

Also, even if CPF members make an effort to invest their retirement savings after they are withdrawn, not many have investment skills that are good enough to consistently beat the current 4% CPF Retirement Account interest rate in the long term.

We also have to be on guard against swindlers who will try to find ways to persuade vulnerable elderly folks to part with their CPF money if they withdraw the full amount at one go.
Therefore, while we understand Singaporeans’ strong sentiments about the Minimum Sum “locking up” our CPF money, for the reasons I just mentioned, the Workers’ Party is not asking for CPF members to be allowed to withdraw all their CPF money in a lump sum, except under special circumstances.

Flexibility in Draw-Down Age

Having said that, there is still room for providing CPF members with more flexibility in determining when to start receiving monthly payouts from their CPF. Currently, members can start drawing down their CPF only upon reaching their Draw Down Age, now known as the Payout Eligibility Age, which will be 65 from 2018 onwards.

Some CPF members may have genuine reasons for needing monthly payouts to start earlier than age 65. For example, they may have been retrenched and, because of a skills mismatch or age discrimination, may not be able to secure another job. Or they may be labourers who are simply be too old to do manual work. When I observed the young men who helped me move the heavy furniture in my home recently, I wondered how long they would be able to continue in that role, and what jobs they would do once they are not strong enough to carry such heavy loads.

The Workers’ Party therefore proposes lowering the Payout Eligibility Age to 60. This will give CPF members the flexibility to start receiving CPF monthly payouts earlier, if they need to, instead of having to wait until age 65. This was a call made by my colleague, the Member for Hougang, Mr Png Eng Huat, in May 2014.

I agree with the CPF Advisory Panel’s recommendation to give members flexibility to defer their Payout Start Age to as late as 70, with a permanent 6 to 7% increase in monthly payouts for every year that they defer.[2] In line with this, under the Workers’ Party’s proposal, there would be a permanent 6 to 7% decrease in payouts for every year that members choose to bring forward their Payout Start Age. Members must be made aware that their monthly payouts could be significantly less should they choose this early payout option.

De-link Payout Eligibility Age from Retirement / Re-employment Age

Many Singaporeans have expressed frustration about the constantly increasing Payout Eligibility Age. It is was 63 last year, 64 this year and will be 65 in 2018. It seems to be moving up together with the Re-employment Age. Perhaps it is assumed that people are able to work until the Re-employment Age and do not need to draw down their CPF savings before that.

However, just because the Re-employment Age has been raised does not mean that everyone will be able to work until 65, as I explained earlier. Furthermore, the statutory Retirement Age is now only 62. This leaves a gap of 3 years that a retiree will have to tide over, should his company not offer him re-employment until 65.

I would like to reiterate the Workers’ Party’s earlier calls for the Payout Eligibility Age to be de-linked from either the Retirement Age or the Re-employment Age. Even if the Retirement Age is increased, the Payout Eligibility Age should remain constant at 60. This will provide members with more assurance of when they are eligible to start drawing from their CPF, regardless of their employment status, instead of wondering when the target will move again.

Public education on CPF system

Madam, I would like to touch on the public education aspects of the CPF scheme. The CPF Scheme is not easy to understand, regardless of one’s level of education. The large amount of technical jargon, acronyms, figures and different conditions that apply to people with different birth years, all add to the confusion.

There is a pressing need to increase and improve public education about the CPF scheme. The CPF Advisory Panel has also recommended that more public education on CPF is needed.

A recent poll by REACH, the government feedback unit, found that only 13% of respondents under 55 were able to provide the estimated monthly payout amount under CPF LIFE if one met the Minimum Sum requirement. With greater choices provided in the CPF scheme, it is important that CPF members are fully aware of the implications of their choices, including the lower payouts if they choose to start withdrawals earlier or withdraw a lump sum.

I am aware that there are many ways in which CPF Board tries to get its message out, including pamphlets, public seminars and even advertisements on YouTube. However, none of these ensures that a CPF member is fully aware of the choices he has to make at critical junctures, like at age 55 and 65. A letter is sent to CPF members just 1 to 2 months before they turn 55, to inform them that they can apply to withdraw their CPF. This may not give them enough time and information to consider their choices carefully.

My observation is that public education on CPF currently focuses a lot on how CPF benefits Singaporeans, or to clarify misunderstandings about CPF. The questions asked in the REACH poll are quite telling. They include questions like “If you do not meet your Minimum Sum requirement, do you need to top up the shortfall in cash?” and “Do you think you will receive a monthly payout from age 65 if you do not meet the full Minimum Sum?”

Public education on CPF should be more tailored to individual members, focusing on the information and numbers that are directly relevant to them and the choices they have to make. We should not confuse people with numbers that are irrelevant to them, like the different Minimum Sum amounts and Draw-Down Ages for different age groups. While the CPF website has a number of useful calculators, not every retiree is technically-savvy enough to access and use them correctly.

I would therefore like to suggest that before reaching the age of 55, every CPF member should be invited to meet one-on-one with a CPF Board officer, who should explain the details of the scheme, including how much he has in his account, how much he can withdraw, when he can withdraw, the choices of CPF LIFE plans and what his monthly payouts will be. This should be conducted in a language or dialect that he is comfortable with, and he should be allowed to bring a few family members to the meeting. It should be done at least a 3 months before the member becomes eligible to withdraw his CPF.

This personalised meeting should be done on top of the public seminars that are available to CPF members. It will provide a channel for important information to be explained personally to the member and to give him an opportunity to seek clarifications from the officer.

Silver Support Scheme

The last matter I wish to raise concerns the Silver Support Scheme. While CPF payouts are usually enough to meet the retirement needs of seniors who have the Full Retirement Sum or more at retirement, there is a sizeable number of Singaporeans whose CPF payouts are insufficient to meet basic household expenditure.

The solution for these individuals cannot be to postpone their CPF withdrawals or place further restrictions on their use of CPF and Medisave. This will only exacerbate their difficult financial situation. I am glad the Government has finally acknowledged that individual responsibility through the CPF system has its limits, and that it is time to provide a form of old age support for needy senior citizens.

While the details of the Silver Support Scheme are still being worked out, I would like to make some remarks on the scheme based on what the Finance Minister has announced.

First, the Silver Support quantum seems rather low, ranging from $100 to $250 per month. This is much lower than what even the poorest 20% of households spend each month on basic household necessities, which is $761 per month for all households[3] and $317 per month for retiree households, according to last year’s Household Expenditure Survey.[4]

Can the DPM share his basis for deriving the Silver Support quantum? Does it look at household expenditure, and does it assume that all retirees receive additional forms of income like children’s contributions?

Given the increasing cost of living in Singapore, I urge the Government to ensure that Silver Support is enough to cover retirees’ basic household expenses and that it also increases over time to account for inflation.

Second, while I agree that the Silver Support Scheme should provide targeted support, the evaluation criteria should take into account the current financial situation of the seniors and should not be so stringent that genuine cases end up being excluded. In particular, the “household support” criteria must not deny Silver Support to seniors whose children are unable to support them or whom they are estranged from. Needy seniors should not have to suffer for their children’s inability or unwillingness to support them.

My third request on Silver Support is that it should be paid out monthly instead of quarterly. Silver Support recipients are not working and receiving a salary, unlike Workfare recipients, yet they still have monthly household expenses like bills, food, transport and rental. A monthly payout would help seniors in their cash flow management.

Conclusion

Madam, in summary, I would like to reiterate the four main proposals in my speech:

First, more flexibility should be given to CPF members to start receiving CPF payouts as early as age 60, if they need to, so as to help those who are not able to find work at that age. Second, the CPF Payout Eligibility Age should be de-linked from the Retirement or Re-employment Age, to provide more certainty for seniors.

Third, personalised public education should be conducted for all CPF members, in their preferred language or dialect, well in advance of their 55th birthday, so as to give them more time to consider their options and discuss with family members. And fourth, the basis for calculating the Silver Support quantum should be made public and it should take into account the current financial situation of seniors to ensure that the needy are not excluded. It should also be paid out monthly instead of quarterly.

[1] http://www.toggle.sg/en/series/talking-point/ep6/321303
[2] CPF Advisory Panel Report, Chapter 2, p.8, point 28.
[3] Household Expenditure Survey 2014, Table 23.
[4] Household Expenditure Survey 2014, Table 47.

Revocation of local companies’ IP rights by govt agencies and GLCs

I asked the Minister for Law (a) how many times have our Ministries, agencies and statutory boards, or Government-linked Companies (GLCs) applied to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) for revocation of patents, registered trademarks or registered designs belonging to local intellectual property (IP) owners; (b) how many revocations have been granted; (c) what are the main reasons for revocation; and (d) how many complaints has the Government received from local IP owners about our Ministries, agencies and statutory boards, or GLCs infringing their IP rights.

Parliamentary Question on 29 January 2015

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Law since 2001 (a) how many times have our Ministries, agencies and statutory boards, or Government-linked Companies (GLCs) applied to the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore (IPOS) for revocation of patents, registered trademarks or registered designs belonging to local intellectual property (IP) owners; (b) how many revocations have been granted; (c) what are the main reasons for revocation; and (d) how many complaints has the Government received from local IP owners about our Ministries, agencies and statutory boards, or GLCs infringing their IP rights.

The Senior Minister of State for Law (Ms Indranee Rajah) (for the Minister for Law): Madam, there have been two revocation applications made since 2001. These were not made to IPOS but in the High Court, in the context of counterclaims to proceedings.
The first case was Mobilestats Technologies Pte Ltd v Attorney-General. The plaintiff claimed in court that the defendant had infringed its patent. The Court held that the plaintiff’s patent was invalid and revoked it.

The second case was Yiap Hang Boon v Housing Development Board. The court held that the patent was invalid and revoked it.

The Ministry of Law and IPOS have not received any other complaints which allege that the Government has infringed the IP rights of local IP owners.

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song: Mdm Speaker, I have four supplementary questions for the Senior Minister of State.

First, I understand IPOS has its own established process for parties to apply to revoke a patent. What are the considerations for Government agencies in deciding to go to the Courts instead of to IPOS to apply for revocation of patents?

Second, does IPOS grant patents for inventions which are not patentable, meaning they are not new, they do not have an inventive step or do not have industrial applications?

The third question: The patent search and examination process is a highly technical and complex process to determine if an invention is patentable. It has taken years for IPOS to build up its patent search and examination capabilities. So, how much technical expertise do our Courts have to subsequently decide which patents that IPOS has granted are now invalid?

Lastly, I am sure the Senior Minister of State agrees that patents are very important to the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Singapore because they encourage inventors to invest time and money to develop their ideas and have the assurance that others will be prevented from using and profiting from their inventions. Have the recent cases of patent battles, including these two cases which the Senior Minister of State has mentioned, between entrepreneurs and Government agencies, affected in any way the confidence among businesses, both local and foreign, that Singapore is a good place to develop and launch their intellectual property?

Ms Indranee Rajah: Mdm Speaker, may I just clarify with Mr Giam on the first question? He referred to IPOS having its own processes and he asked what considerations were taken into account. But he asked the second question following that – not a separate question but pertaining to the first one – can I just understand his full question so that I can answer it appropriately?

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song: The first question was regarding why the Government agencies would go to the Courts instead of going to IPOS to apply to revoke patents, since IPOS has its own patent revocation process. Why do they go to the Courts? The second question was—

Ms Indranee Rajah: That is fine. That was the part I needed to clarify.

With respect to the first question which was what considerations IPOS takes into account, the patent protection accorded varies from country to country. Patent protection in each country is granted by its patent office, and most countries adopt the internationally recognised criteria of novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability to ascertain whether a patent should be granted. Each patent office conducts its own search and examination. The determination of whether an invention meets the criteria for obtaining a patent depends very much on the relevant body of knowledge and technology that the examiner is able to find in the public domain within the time available and his evaluation of the information found.

With respect to the second part of that question, Mr Giam asked in what circumstances would Government agencies go to the Court instead of IPOS. As I had mentioned earlier, the two cases in question arose in the context of counterclaims.

With respect to the second question, Mr Giam asked whether IPOS would grant patents for inventions which are not patentable. As I mentioned earlier, each patent office will do its own search and examination. It will look at the criteria of novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability and ascertain whether, on the face of it, the patent can be granted. I should say, however, that all patents that are granted are potentially open to challenges by other parties. The grant of a patent does not guarantee that the patent will never be successfully challenged in Court since the patent office grants patents without the benefit of hearing arguments by other parties as to why a patent should not be granted. Recognising that it is not possible for a patent examiner to be aware of all the relevant body of knowledge and technology that is publicly available worldwide, patent systems in the world generally allow for the validity of patents which have been granted to be contested, and Singapore is no exception.

With respect to the third question, Mr Giam asked about the search and examination process. He mentioned that it was highly complex and he asked how much expertise the Court has to determine the validity of a patent. This is no different from any other subject matter brought to the Court which is of a technical or complex nature. In the usual course, the Court will have the benefit of the assistance of expert witnesses in order to do this.

In the fourth question, Mr Giam said that intellectual property is important to entrepreneurship and asked whether the recent cases would affect confidence in Singapore as a place for protection of intellectual property. As far as the Ministry of Law is aware, it has not affected the confidence of investors and entrepreneurs in the intellectual property regime in Singapore.

Requirements for pre-flight briefings for pilots of commercial flights

I asked the Minister for Transport (a) whether the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) requires pilots of all commercial flights departing from Singapore to undergo pre-flight briefings; (b) if so, who conducts these briefings and what are the contents of these briefings; and (c) whether the conduct and contents of pre-flight briefings are left to the discretion of individual airlines or flight operators.

Parliamentary question on 29 January 2015

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Transport (a) whether the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) requires pilots of all commercial flights departing from Singapore to undergo pre-flight briefings; (b) if so, who conducts these briefings and what are the contents of these briefings; and (c) whether the conduct and contents of pre-flight briefings are left to the discretion of individual airlines or flight operators.

Mr Lui Tuck Yew: The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) requires all Singapore carriers to provide their pilots with relevant information for their preparations before each flight. This must include weather information, Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs), status of the aircraft, the estimated passenger and cargo load for the flight, and the recommended flight plan, amongst others. Our airlines usually provide the information through a pre-flight information package prepared by the respective airlines’ flight operations centres. CAAS does not mandate that such information for the pilots be provided through pre-flight briefings. This is consistent with international practice.

Foreign spouses of Singapore citizens who are ineligible to work in Singapore

I asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs as at 31 December 2014, how many foreign spouses of Singapore citizens have (i) social visit passes; (ii) Long Term Visit Passes (LTVP); and (iii) an immigration status which makes them ineligible to work in Singapore.

Parliamentary question on 29 January 2015

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs as at 31 December 2014, how many foreign spouses of Singapore citizens have (i) social visit passes; (ii) Long Term Visit Passes (LTVP); and (iii) an immigration status which makes them ineligible to work in Singapore.

Mr Teo Chee Hean: The number of foreign spouses of Singapore Citizens (SCs) who enter Singapore as social visitors is not available as ICA does not track this statistic.

As at 31 December 2014, there were 14,694 foreign spouses of SCs on Long-Term Visit Pass (LTVP) and Long-Term Visit Pass-Plus (LTVP+).

Foreign spouses who are Permanent Residents or on LTVP, LTVP+ or on a work pass are eligible to work in Singapore.

Repatriation of foreign workers for dependency ratio ceiling violations by employers

I asked the Minister for Manpower given a recent instance of a foreign worker being repatriated for a Dependency Ratio Ceiling violation whereby the ruling was subsequently reversed on appeal but the foreign worker was not able to return as a work permit holder, what provisions are in place to ensure processing of appeals prior to repatriation or to allow for the reversibility of rulings post-repatriation.

Parliamentary Question on 19 January 2015

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Manpower given a recent instance of a foreign worker being repatriated for a Dependency Ratio Ceiling violation whereby the ruling was subsequently reversed on appeal but the foreign worker was not able to return as a work permit holder, what provisions are in place to ensure processing of appeals prior to repatriation or to allow for the reversibility of rulings post-repatriation.

Mr Tan Chuan-Jin: Business employers are required to keep within their Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) when hiring foreign workers. The DRC is calculated based on the company’s local workforce, as reflected via its CPF contributions to its employees. When a company reduces its local workforce or fails to make its CPF contributions on time, its Dependency Ratio will exceed the DRC.

MOM will then request the company to rectify the situation by either increasing its local workforce or cancelling some work passes so as to keep within the DRC. In such instances, employers are given a choice as to which work pass holders to retain and which to let go. Employers are given ample opportunity to take remedial action before MOM cancels any work passes. We will also take in appeals from employers if the situation is rectified before the workers are sent home. Employers may still re-hire the workers if they have sufficient room within their DRC.

To avoid unnecessary disruption to business operations, employers should ensure that they maintain sufficient local workers to keep within its DRC.

Publishing income & expenditure statistics by individual in addition to by household

I asked the Minister for Trade and Industry whether the Department of Statistics can publish income and expenditure statistics by individuals in addition to by households so as to provide more precise measurements on poverty since individuals in a household may have different access to the household income.

Parliamentary question on 19 January 2015

Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Trade and Industry whether the Department of Statistics can publish income and expenditure statistics by individuals in addition to by households so as to provide more precise measurements on poverty since individuals in a household may have different access to the household income.

Mr Lim Hng Kiang: The Department of Statistics provides detailed statistics on households’ monthly expenditure and income based on the Household Expenditure Survey (HES).

Data from the HES is analysed on a household basis, and not on an individual basis, to reflect the sharing of goods and services as well as income resources within the household. Many expenditure items including food, utilities and household goods are shared among members of a household, and it would not be feasible to attribute a specific share of the household’s expenditure on each item to individual household members. In addition, income resources are commonly pooled to support household members who are not earning an income, such as children, the elderly or a non-working spouse. Similar to the case for expenditure, it would be difficult to ascertain how much income resources each household member has consumed.

The use of the household as the basic unit of analysis for the HES is in accordance with international best practices recommended by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and is also adopted by other national statistical offices such as those in Australia, Hong Kong and the United States.