Price of failure too high

Price of failure too high
JOB SITUATION: Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang at a rally yesterday where he said the rising unemployment rate among graduates worried him.
PHOTO: The New Paper

Several Workers' Party candidates focused on the job situation and unemployment among graduates at last night's rally.

Addressing the audience in Mandarin, party chief Low Thia Khiang said the rising unemployment rate among graduates worried him.

In 2012, the unemployment rate for degree holders below the age of 30 was 7 per cent. That figure rose to 7.8 per cent last year.

"On the surface, it all looks fine and dandy. But if you dig deeper, you will see that the unemployment rate for new graduates is going up.

"Every year, the unemployment rate goes up. It's worrying," he said.

East Coast GRC candidate Leon Perera related the story of a woman in her 30s who approached him a few days ago outside Bedok MRT station.

She had struggled for a year to find a job but there was too much competition in the job market for professionals, including those from overseas applying for the same job.

"I don't think I will ever forget the look on her face. It was the look of someone who felt betrayed," Mr Perera said.

He added that he has met more than one professional family who could no longer afford a car because of the ERP and certificate of entitlement (COE) prices.

"They had to sell their cars and take public transport so they were affected by the train disruptions that we face, including this morning's train delay on the North East Line," he said.

He said this pain of higher costs, along with the lack of funding and unpredictable rentals, was also felt by local business owners.

He suggested measures like managing land sales to keep commercial rentals down and for the Government to develop dedicated capability to support micro-businesses - those with fewer than 10 employees.

Mr Perera, who owns a business research and consulting agency, said the People's Action Party (PAP) may be out of touch with reality when it comes to businesses.

"My friends, if you look at the PAP Cabinet, how many of them have ever been entrepreneurs or business owners? Hardly any. Most have been civil servants all their lives," he said.

"There is nothing wrong with that, but when you make economic policies, is it grounded in the realities that our local companies face?"

Singapore needs more confident citizens and local businesses, he said, adding that too many people struggle to make ends meet and worry about being retrenched or not being able to retire.

"My friends, all this wears down our spirit. All this drains our energy. Then we'll have nothing left with which to dream, to create, to innovate, which is what a First World economy needs in the 21st century.

"We need to reach for the stars, knowing that if we fall, the safety nets will help us spring back. The price of failure must not be so high," Mr Perera said.

Countries with the most dynamic economies, like the US, Japan and Europe, have things like unemployment insurance and minimum wage, which is what the WP is calling for, he added.

"We need an economy that serves us and a politics that serves us, not the other way around," he said.

This article was first published on September 9, 2015.
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