By Leong Sze Hian
I was speaking on “How to Retire Without Any Worries in Singapore?” At Invest Fair 2013, when a young man asked me what is “spin doctoring” and whether I could give a recent example, during a casual conversation.
I was in a rush and so was not able to continue the discussion.
The next day, I was flying to Yangon for an ASEAN Civil Society meeting and what the young man asked me kind of lingered on at the back of my mind (when you are at airports and during flights, you have a lot of time to kill).
Singapore don’t have triple whammy?
Then I read the day’s newspaper which had an article “Beware job-skill mismatch: Swee Say” – which said “in his written National Day message to unionists, Mr Lim pointed out that many countries face the problems of youth unemployment, inadequate pay rises for working adults and dwindling retirement funds for retires – what he calls the problem of “three not enough”.
Singapore is spared this triple whammy, with low unemployment, steady wage gains and a rising re-employment age.”
The ‘right’ things?
At civil society meetings, a lot of the discussion centres around human ‘rights’ – and the above remarks about “steady wage gains and a rising re-employment age” don’t sound ‘right’ plus all the recent debate about reading the ‘right’ things – kind of connected (two wrongs don’t make a right) – perhaps all this may have something to do with what is “spin doctoring”?
According to the dictionary, “spin doctoring” is “Someone, especially in politics, who tries to influence public opinion by putting a favourable bias on information when it is presented to the public or to the media”.
“Steady wage gains”?
So, let’s start with the remarks “steady wage gains”.
0.85 % real income growth last decade?
I estimate that the real growth in the Median Gross Monthly Income From Work of the Full-Time Employed (not all employed including part-time) per annum from 2002 to 2012 was only about 0.85 per cent.
0.1% 20th percentile real wage growth last decade?
I estimate that the 20th percentile of workers had only about 0.1 per cent per annum real wage growth (excluding employer CPF contribution) for the last decade or so (“Lowest income had highest inflation & lowest pay rise?“, Feb 5).
Re-employment at age 62?
Next, let’s examine the remarks “a rising re-employment age”.
Unions get public sector to emulate private sector?
I recall several media reports recently about how the unions were instrumental in getting the public sector to follow the private sector in not reducing the pay of those re-employed at age 62.
Specifically, let me refer to four articles in just one newspaper:
“Public sector ‘lags behind in pay for rehired staff” (Straits Times, Jul 22)
“‘Same job, so same pay for older worker’” (Straits Times, Jul 23)
“No pay cut for junior servants re-hired at 62″ (Straits Times, Jul 30)
“Salary for staff already re-hired to be reviewed” (Straits Times, Jul 31)
All public sector employees covered?
Whilst the public sector’s much welcomed policy change on re-employment will apply across the board to all civil servants and public agencies’ employees, which I understand is a few hundred thousand people, what are the statistics to support the widespread better re-employment practices of the private sector, which sparked the public sector to follow suit in the first place?
“The public sector lags behind private companies when it comes to pay packages for older workers who are rehired, the labour movement said yesterday.
Survey of 118 firms?
A survey of 118 firms conducted by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) last year found that close to eight in 10 unionised companies in the private sector did not reduce the pay of their older workers when they were rehired at 62.
In contrast, public servants faced pay cuts of up to 30 per cent when they were re-employed at the age of 62. But this had some improvement when Public Service Division (PSD) announced that from August 1, Division 3 civil servants who are re-employed after they retire will earn the same salary and hold the same job grades. (link)
NTUC deputy secretary-general Heng Chee How produced the survey results yesterday to strengthen the union’s call for change in the public sector.”
Declined to give survey details?
Here’s the quote which I think you may have to pay particular attention to – “NTUC yesterday declined to give more details, such as the size of the companies it surveyed and the sector to which they belong”.
Why decline to give details?
How were the 118 companies selected?
Who conducted the survey? Was it done by an independent party? Was it done by a specialised survey company?
How many not rehired?
Also, what does “when they were re-hired” mean? What are the statistics as to how many were rehired and how many were not rehired when they reached 62?
With regard to “eight in 10 unionised companies in the private sector did not reduce the pay of their older workers when they were rehired at 62″ – does it mean that even if one company only rehired one of its many age 62 workers without reducing pay and did not rehire the rest – and the statement would still stand?
So, how many age 62 workers in total with the breakdown are we talking about in the survey?
Are we expected to believe that 100 per cent of about 80 per cent of the 118 companies surveyed did not cut the pay of 100 per cent of those rehired, and maybe the other 20 per cent may have cut the pay (by how much) of 100 per cent of those rehired?
And of course, the other 20 per cent may not have rehired anybody at all.
Make survey public?
Why not make the entire detailed survey findings, methodology, etc, public?
If this fails to get any response like so often in the past when calls were made for full reports to be made public, such as the actuarial studies’ reports on the C PF Life scheme, it may lead to further erosion of the trust and confidence in our public institutions.
Why does the survey only cover unionised companies? What is the percentage of unionised to non-unionised companies in Singapore?
So much for yet another survey?
This starkly sobbing statistic has to be seen in the “spin doctoring” context that it was reported in the media that while eight in 10 companies in the unionised sector accepted the recommendations and boosted the pay of their low-wage workers by at least $50 last year, but only three in 10 non-unionised companies followed suit.
If not for the MOM report which came out just a few days later – we wouldn’t be the wiser that 8 in 10 and 3 in 10 non-unionised (implying unionised is so much better?) – actually means in totality only 3 in 10 of less than $1,000 workers got the $50!