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Leong Sze Hian takes a look at "progress" on National Day.

Seeing Stars: Uniquely Singapore – Progress

Leong Sze Hian / Senior Writer

In this special series of Uniquely Singapore, Leong Sze Hian takes a look at the 5 stars of our flag and how it relates to certain issues. This first article focuses on “Progress”.

I refer to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) report, “Focus on older people in and out of employment”, released at the end of July.

67 per cent of older workers (age 50 and over) worked as production, cleaners, labourers and related workers.

According to the MOM’s Report on Wages in Singapore 2007, the lowest paid category of workers, was the group comprising cleaners, labourers and related workers, with a median gross pay of $ 968.

The annualised wage change for this group was zero, from 1997 to 2007.

In the case of cleaners, labourers and related workers, the wages were largely flat in the earlier age groups, before declining for those in their 40s onwards to a low of 0.63 for the 60 - 64 age group.

Since the median gross pay for this group was only $ 968, does it mean that older workers are paid even less ?

The gender wage difference was 30.8 per cent for the age 35 - 39 group.

Does this gender wage gap occur for the older age group too ?

So, how much less are elderly women workers paid ?

With 469,000 employed residents age 50 and over being employed in June 2007, it means that about 314,230 (67% of 469,000) elderly Singaporeans work as production, cleaners, labourers and related workers.

And since elderly workers constitute 26 per cent of the resident workforce, it means that about 17 out of 100 (314,230 divided by 314,230 divided by 0.26) workers are elderly production, cleaners, labourers and related workers.

If we include such workers who are younger than 50, how many Singaporeans are cleaners, labourers and related workers, who earn a median gross pay of only $ 968 ?

The long term unemployment rate for older workers at 0.9 per cent is about double that of younger workers, at 0.4 - 0.7 per cent.

27 and 10 per cent of older workers are self-employed and part-time workers, respectively, compared to 4 and 4.8 per cent respectively for younger workers.

66 per cent of older workers cited their reason for working as needing money for current expenses. 12 per cent worked for their future financial security, and only 16.3 per cent worked for non-monetary reasons.

In June 2006, 76 per cent of economically inactive residents mainly relied on income support from family members.

In the MOM’s second quarter employment report released at the end of July, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for residents increased by 54 per cent from 2.6 in March to 4.0 in June, compared to 1.8 to 2.9 for the overall (including foreigners) unemployment rate.

The above statistics may indicate an urgent need to address the plight of older Singaporean workers ; for a review of policies to reverse these alarming trends, particularly in the light of calls not to increase wages to cope with inflation because of the fear of wage-inflationary pressures, relative to productivity growth.

Glowing and repeated reports of good job growth and economic growth may mask some of the underlying issues that older Singaporeans face.

Finally, if residents comprise 69 per cent of the total number of employed, why is it that 95 per cent of the unemployed are residents ?

If we make an adjustment for permanent residents (PRs) in the residents statistics, what percentage of the unemployed are Singaporeans ?

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