By Leong Sze Hian

Oh no, not yet another pledge to increase low-wage workers’ pay?

I refer to the article “pledge to boost pay of low-wage workers” (Straits Times, Oct 30).

Income growth different from Dept. of Statistics?


In the accompanying Jobs and income growth table, it shows that Singapore’s Cumulative growth, real median household income (2007-2012) was 17.7%, the highest among the 8 developed countries in the table.

Income per household member grew only 13% in 5 years?

However, according to the Department of Statistics’ (DOS) Key Household income trends 2012, “Cumulatively between 2007 and 2012, the median monthly household income from work of resident employed households rose by 16 per cent in real terms (Table 3). Taking into consideration changes in household size, the median monthly household income from work per household member rose by 13 per cent in real terms over the same period”.

So, how is it possible that the DOS says that real household income growth for the same 5 year period was 16 per cent, against the 17.5 per cent cited now at the 3-day NTUC conference?

Also, since the per household member growth was much lower at 13 per cent, does it mean that household income grew relatively more because there were more working members per household?

Does it mean that particularly for lower-income households, more members may have to work to make ends meet?

Inclusive of employer CPF contribution?

Moreover, since the statistics are including employer CPF contribution, what is the growth without employer CPF contribution.

It used to be that the statistics in the past were based on without employer CPF contribution.

Different from other countries?

Do any of the other 7 countries cited in the table for comparison include the employer’s pension contribution in calculating real income growth? I believe the answer is no.

Productivity and pay of cleaners and guards will go up?

The subject news article states that:

“The productivity and pay of cleaners and guards will go up, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam has pledged.
He assured an audience of trade unionists yesterday that such low-wage workers will get a raft of help to lift their pay.

“We do have a problem with some low-wage jobs which have been stuck at low levels for too long,” said Mr Tharman.

What about landscape workers?

He cited examples of cleaners, security guards and landscape workers as needing higher pay.

Office cleaners and security guards earn a basic monthly pay of $800, according to the Manpower Ministry’s official wage data.”

Don’t you find it strange that 3 low-wage occupations were cited – cleaners, security guards and landscape workers – but then say that only 2 – “The productivity and pay of cleaners and guards will go up” – what happened to landscape workers?

And of course, only the basic pay of “Office cleaners and security guards” was cited, quoting “the Manpower Ministry’s official wage data.”

Well, according to MOM wage data, the basic pay of landscape workers can no longer be found (“This occupation is not available for benchmarking, as we will only release data with sufficient coverage”).

Landscape workers real basic wage dropped 17%?


In this connection, according to the MOM’s  occupational wages benching tool, the median basic and gross wage of Park and Garden Maintenance Workers in 2012, was $900 and $1,000, respectively.

In June 2011, their wages were $1,020 and $1,050, respectively, according to the now discontinued annual Report on Wages.

Since Inflation from June 2011 to June 2012 was 5.3 per cent, does it mean that their basic and gross wage had negative real median wage growth of about minus 17 and 10 per cent, respectively?

Cleaners & Security Guards’ pay up, but landscape workers’ down?

The basic pay of office cleaners and security guards was $760 and $730 respectively in 2011. So, at least they had an increase to $800, compared to the 12 per cent decrease (17 per cent in real terms) for landscape workers (Park and Garden Maintenance Workers).

So, perhaps the above may be a possible reason why landscape workers were initially cited as low-wage workers together with office cleaners and security guards, and then conveniently forgotten when wages were cited subsequently, as well as being excluded from “their productivity and pay will go up”.

Singing the same “broken” rhetoric?

How many more years and how many times must we hear the same old pledge and rhetoric that with productivity, the pay of low-wage workers will go up?

Uniquely Singapore!

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