At the 31st PAP party conference on Sunday, PM Lee said that "Actually, we have something better than minimum wage, we have Workfare." Actually, hor, it depends on how you define "better".
Started in 2006, the Workfare scheme gives cash and CPF monies to Singaporeans aged 35 and above who earn up to $1,700 monthly - it is a shocking testament that 30 percent of wage earners are subsisting on this amount or less.
Lee used the example of a 65-year old earning $1,000 a month (65, and still has to work to stay alive) who will get the maximum payout of $2,800 a year, of which $800 will be in cash and $2,000 goes into the CPF account. Translated in real world terms, it means only cash of $66.66 a month ($2.19 a day) extra is available for food, transportation and utilities bills. The substantial bulk of the Workfare handout is locked up in CPF, to be used as the "nest egg" for retirement at, presumably 85, as government guided trends go. Far from lying idle, truth be told, quite a bit of the funds have already been burnt in toxic investments by the financial wizards at GIC and the like.
The creation of the Workfare initiative in Singapore is claimed by some to be inspired by the US Bill of welfare reforms designed to encourage economic self-sufficiency. Apparently it was the system developed by the state of Wisconsin that served as a model for Singapore because of its numerous successes in reducing the number of recipients on welfare. There's a key difference of course, Singapore does not have a welfare system to begin with. If you still have a pair of working legs or hands, you can wipe tables or clean toilets up to the ripe old age of 90, for all they care. If you are handicapped, physically or mentally challenged, you don't get to receive the largesse of $2.19 a day at all. Which is hardly enough anyway for three meals a day, at hawker center, food court or restaurant.