Leong Sze Hian / Columnist

There are 76,200 unemployed, 292,800 workers earning $1,200 or less, and 126,800 part-timers earning a median income of $600. This in total is 495,800, out of the total resident work force of 1,928,300. So, does it mean that about 1 in 4 workers (495,800 divided by 1,928,300), are earning $1,200 or less or unemployed?

I refer to the articles “A 4.3% wage hike, really ?” (Today, Dec 2) and “Employment rate hits new high” (Today, Nov 29), and the Ministry of Manpower’s Singapore Workforce 2008 Report released on 28 November.

The Median Gross Monthly Income of Full-Time and Part-Time Employed Residents grew from $1,950 and $ 600 in 1999, to $2,590 and $ 600 in June 2008, respectively.

It would thus seem, based on the above numbers, that the median monthly income change per annum over the last nine years for full-time employees were 3.2 per cent.

For part-timers it was 0 per cent.

After adjusting for inflation, what was the median monthly income change per annum for these workers?

The number of part-timers in the workforce as a share of total employment increased from 3.2 per cent in 1998, to 6.3 and 6.8 per cent in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

So, does this mean that some of these part-timers have had no increase in median monthly income for the past nine years?

Although the number of Full-Time Employed Residents with Gross Monthly Income of $1,200 and below, has declined from 363,500 in 1998 to 292,800 in 2008. This may need to be seen in the context that the number of part-timers earning a median income of $600 increased by more than double from 3.2 per cent of employed residents in 1998 to 6.8 per cent (126,800) in 2008.

In this connection, those who work fewer than 35 hours a week may soon be considered part-time workers, under changes to be made to the Employment Act (“”Working less than 35 hours a week? You’re a part-timer : MOM agrees to tweak limit on working hours to protect full-time workers”, ST, Oct 10).

As the MOM statistics now define part-time workers as those working 30 hours or less a week, does this change mean that more full-time workers, particularly those earning $1,200 or less, may be re-classified as part-time ?

If this happens, then any apparent drop in the number of workers who earn $1,200 or less may actually be due to such re-classification, rather than an improvement in the statistics for the number of lower-income workers.

After adjusting for inflation at say two per cent, $1,200 in 1999 is equivalent to $1,434 in 2008.

So, perhaps the question that we need to ask is: how many earn below $1,434 in 2008, instead of only those still earning $1,200 and below?

With the above adjustments, I believe the number earning $1,200 and below may actually have increased.

Moreover in this connection, the pool of resident employees on term contracts continues to increase by 4.9 per cent to make up 12.4 per cent of all resident employees, to 189,100 in 2008.

As some of such term contract employees may generally receive less non-cash benefits like medical benefits, leave, etc, their incomes may actually be less if an adjustment is made for such reduced non-cash benefits.

With calls to cut salaries to save jobs, instead of retrenchment, will these lower-income workers earn even less in the future?

With Singapore in recession, and persistent high inflation with food prices continuing to rise with the weakening Singapore dollar, I would like to suggest that measures to help lower-income Singaporeans take into account the above manpower statistics.

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