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January 17, 2009

Singapore: Agency calls for wage freeze, cut
Singapore's National Wages Council (NWC) said on Friday unemployment will be "substantially higher" this year, and recommended firms affected by the economic downturn institute a wage freeze or wage cuts to stay competitive and save jobs.

The council, which comprises representatives from government, employers and unions, however, ruled out cutting employers' contribution to the Central Provident Fund, the retirement fund for Singapore workers, according to a report posted on the Channel News Asia’s website.

"It's not an ideal instrument, we don't want to use it," NWC Chairman Lim Pin said at a media conference. He said cutting pensions hurt workers at firms that were doing well and also created longer-term problems since Singaporeans used the funds to cover medical costs and for their retirement.

The government had cut CPF contributions in a bid to lower labour costs during previous recessions. Singapore was the first Asian economy to fall into a recession in 2008 and the government has warned that the economy may shrink as much as 2 percent this year.

Recommendations by the NWC are not binding on employers but are usually followed by state-linked firms such as Singapore Telecommunications and DBS Group.

The council usually meets in May but was convened four months ahead of time to set wage guidelines amid a worsening economic outlook.

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