We continued to enable internet connectivity and have pushed out another 40 computers to students who needed them. Digital inclusion is social inclusion and especially now, when it facilitates the strong social connections that are so important for our wellbeing. Internet connectivity among our members will be uneven for a while more, even as we work at resolving the issue for the near and longer term. As we provide devices to meet immediate needs, we are also working closely with IMDA and MOE to get our members onto government digital inclusion programmes.
Some members who had a head start with internet connectivity are those on our Community Independence Initiative project. Last October (AWB -1940), they were issued tablets to monitor their income and personal development. They are now reasonably proficient with the device and meeting online this week was a breeze. It was also a breath of fresh air that lifted spirits for members of the group.
A father of four teens has been working as a private-hire driver and a security guard. Currently he has gone into security work full-time which means being requested to show up at least 3 times a week. It is still a part-time job, but he reckons it is better than driving around for 3 hours and drawing a fare of $20 which does not cover car rental and petrol. He shared that there is too much competition because many white-collar workers have their fingers in the pie. He added that these workers are currently employed but participating in the gig economy as a back-up plan in case they get retrenched. “Aiyah, I can’t do office work but now office workers take my job,” this father reflected wistfully.
Another participant lost her cleaner and play assistant jobs because the places that hired her closed. She thought that she could still hold on to her graveyard shift at a 24-hour convenience store but that closed too. “Things come in 3 lah, so now something new can come up,” was her hopeful posture. A storekeeper in the group then assured her that he will speak to his boss about an opening because the company had lost many employees from Malaysia who are unable to leave their country. This offer of help lifted everyone’s spirit as the opportunity appeared viable and it even attracted the interest of the father in security work as he wanted to be working more days.
The optimism and never-say-die attitude among the many low wage workers is admirable and as such, many take on 2 or more jobs to make ends meet. Jobs where wages may fluctuate and often do not come with employment benefits. As we continued calling our members this week, many told us that they have been warned by their employers that their wages will drop when businesses reopen. It has also come to our attention that gross family income often comes from small contributions made by different members of the household. The efforts of teenagers, grandparents and parents add to the rice pot which is now empty because none of them have work.
Wage work pays from $5 to $10 an hour and many told us that with overtime, they take home about $50 to $70 a day. Hence, families have been getting by because of the availability of long workdays with responsibilities that cannot be fulfilled working from home. When we listen to all this, we cannot help wishing that the employment conditions of low-wages workers will improve soon. The work we do does not command the same amount of wages, but it should at least command a level of respect that safeguards one’s health and the choice to call it a day after 8 hours of labour.
As of today, our Covid-19 Family Assistance Fund has committed $ 462,370 to help 398 families get over this period. We will continue systematically to reach more families.
Wishing you and all at home, good health and peace of mind.
Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them. – Dalai Lama