Analysing Singpore's Low-wage Workers Using Karl Marx's Ideas


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This essay aims to make use of the ideas and concepts presented by Karl Marx in The Marx-Engels to examine the problem of income inequality in Singapore, as presented in an article by TODAY, titled “Some low-wage workers working like ‘slaves’, says Labour MP”. Firstly, Singapore’s low-wage workers tend to be part of a low-trained or vulnerable workforce facing limited job prospects, while being considered by their company as largely expendable or replaceable, leading them to continue working for their employers even despite exploitation or bad working conditions, which enables the wage gap problem to persist. This reflects Marx’s perspective of capitalism as a system that dehumanises and commodifies labourers.

The article quotes Labour PM Zainal Sapari with lines including “sometimes that is the only job which they can do… and because that is the only option they have […] they are not in any bargaining position”, in addition to, “Trapped by the need to make a living for themselves and their families, these workers are prone to be shackled in servitude to the masters who control them”. The combination of the lack of skill set and the desperation to be employed in order to survive is the reason why these people stay at their jobs no matter the work conditions and “work till you die” like a slave. Secondly, capitalist employers in Singapore are profit-oriented and will pay their employees as low as they can to reduce costs where possible. This Secondly, capitalist employers in Singapore will want to pay their employees as low as possible for their own financial profit. This matches Marx’s view that capitalists shrunk the wages of labourers as much as possible to skim off a wide profit margin, which he called Primitive Accumulation. While Karl Marx’s ideas on capitalism still hold true to Singapore’s modern income disparity, it seems unlikely that the ideas from his Manifesto of the Communist Party would hold up as well today. With reasons such as violent historical conflict against communism after World War 2, Singapore’s strict restrictions on public demonstrations, the vulnerability of many of the low-income workers, and many more, it is unlikely in the near future for a communist movement to gain significant traction before intervention from the government.

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The dangers and risk of starting a communist revolution in Singapore outweigh the injustice that the low-wage workers currently face, preventing individuals from attempting to start a revolution. On a brighter note, Singapore has not turned a blind eye to these low-wage workers, instead there have been significant efforts to reach out to them to narrow the income disparity and close the division between classes for a more inclusive society. Minimum wage laws have been implemented for workers in the cleaning, security, and landscaping industries, as well as annual bonuses. Workplace safety and health regulations to protect employee rights Although the results have been small, it provides hope for a future where everyone can enjoy a fairer distribution of wealth.

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