By Leong Sze Hian
I refer to the article “Security guard scheme yet to draw more retirees, housewives” (Straits Times, Jul 15).
Retirees & housewives aren’t biting?
It states that “Retirees and housewives are spurning a government scheme to woo them to work as security guards.
Launched just a year ago, the programme that targets the two groups to ease manpower shortage in the security sector has not taken off, as revealed by the Singapore Police Force and Workforce Development Agency (WDA).
How come never mention “pay”?
The first thought that came to my mind (the obvious one I think for anyone who reads the subject article) was could it be due to the pay being too low?
About $4 an hour?
Lo and behold – when I googled to find the media report which announced the launch of the scheme in August last year – the media report in August last year (“Security firms to recruit housewives and retirees“, Aug 18, 2012)
said that they will be trained to work part-time for six to eight hours of work each day, up to six days a week, and they can expect to earn between $600 and $800 a month.
Pay $4 an hour?
This works out to a pay per hour of only about $4.
A reader has sent me an appointment letter dated in June, for a security guard – monthly salary is $725, which works out to about $4 an hour based on a 44-hour basic work week. (Note: hours in excess of 44 is generally considered as overtime)
Help workers or industry?
Sometimes, I wonder whether the focus or objectives of some agencies is to help Singaporean workers get a decent paying job, or to help industry solve their “manpower shortage”?
Why “manpower shortage”?
Then, of course the obvious question to ask is why does the security sector have a “manpower shortage” problem?
Work 12 hours a day?
Well, there’s a clue in the subject media article which said “it was difficult to deploy these restricted guards alongside those working 12 hours, because their numbers were too small”.
You see, I believe the root of the problem may be that the typical working hours are 12 hours a day for six days a week.
Mostly overtime pay?
Hence, although the gross monthly pay may be about $1,800, the basic pay may be as little as about $700, with the bulk of the pay due to overtime.
Decline to give statistics again?
Why is it that whenever there are “negative” news, and when asked for the statistics – it seems that the norm may be to decline by saying – for example in this instance – “declined to say how many signed up or elaborate on the poor showing, but maintained that they will keep the scheme running despite the “initial low take-up rate.
The agencies have “assessed the project to be a viable option” for those who want to work part-time in the sector”.
Work 8 hours also “part-time”?
I find it somewhat ludicrous to define a person who works 8 hours a day as “part-time”, just because the typical “full-time” security guard works 12 hours for 6 days a week.
Can survive working 4 hours?
Of course a “part-time” retiree or housewife can choose to work for as little as 4 hours a day.
However, the pay may then be so miserable that one probably may not need to be a genius to figure out why the scheme has few takers.
1001 reasons & excuses?
Anyway, reading the news may sometimes be akin to “insulting your intelligence”, because often times, every conceivable reason or excuse may be given as to why a scheme is not working – but leaving out the obvious – how much is the pay in this instance!
We love to be “in denial”?
We may also appear to cherish what I call frequent “states of denial” – just read what the subject article said – “It is a sharp contrast to the upbeat note struck in August last year, when both agencies introduced the plan to hire 500 retirees and housewives to work as guards, declaring that an earlier six-month pilot had “positive feedback”.
I wonder if the “positive feedback” was from significant numbers of retirees and housewives who were “positive” about working for just about $4 an hour.
Got common sense or not?
Instances like the above, may not bode well for public agencies as this may not be so much a question of less trust and confidence in public institutions, but the competency and logical thinking of institutions a well. (“Trust in public institutions top issue for Parliament on Monday“, Today, Aug 8)
In this connection with reference to the Editorial “Address job discrimination concerns” (Jul 12, Straits Times) – isn’t it in a way somewhat discriminatory against retirees and housewives, when public agencies can spend much time, effort and money to introduce schemes that are arguably, “pay discrimination?
Also, with reference to the article “Narrow the empathy gap” (Jul 27, Straits Times), is this not in a sense, an example of how lacking we may be in “empathy” for lower-pay Singaporean workers?
With reference to the article “Govt to ensure growth becomes more inclusive” (Straits Times, Aug 7) – how can we keep saying that we need “to ensure growth becomes more inclusive”, when public agencies like the WDA continues to come up with harebrained schemes which only pay about $4 an hour to help Singaporeans get jobs?
Try telling the subject scheme’s retirees and housewives and security guards, that “The definition of a good job – one which offers satisfactorily pay and benefits, work-like balance, good employers and colleagues, and career advancement – is a comprehensive one that encompasses almost all that an employee can ask for”! (“Keeping it real on jobs and competition”, Aug 7, Straits Times).