What has Alex Au got to do with jobs and incomes?

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Supporters of blogger Alex Au issue statement” (Straits Times, Nov 30).

 

Inhibiting the right of free expression?

It states that “The right of free expression is enshrined in… our Constitution… The AGC’s action reflects an overzealous desire to police public opinion.

His supporters said that if the 61-year-old blogger had erred, his claims should be rebutted in public.”

 

3.9% real income growth last year?

On the same day, there was the front page headlines article “Real Income growth highest since 2008“, which said that “in real terms – after adjusting for inflation – workers’ incomes went up more this year. The 3.9 per cent rise was not only higher than last year’s 2.5 per cent, it was the highest increase since the onset of the 2008 global financial crisis”.

The above statistics are from the Ministry of manpower’s (MOM) Singapore Workforce 2013 report released on 29 November.

 

Difficulty in finding the report?

However, unlike in previous years, I cannot find the full report this morning- there was only a videographic.

I believe the full report was only available on the MOM web site at around noon time today. It could be that the way the web site showed how to access the full report in the past, may have been changed such that I was not able to find it.

So, unlike in the previous years, I am unable to do an analysis on the same day as the media publish their reports, to provide an alternative view of the statistics.

 

Part-time workers’ real income growth minus 2.6%?

Other than only the rosy real income growth reported in the media, the real income growth of part-time workers excluding employer CPF contribution last year was minus 2.6% – with no change in the nominal income of $800.

 

Part-time workers increase to 205,000?

In this connection, the number of part-time workers has increased from 196,800 to 205,000 last year. A part-time worker is one who works 35 hours or less in a week.

 

No more table showing “excluding employer CPF contribution” for last 5, 10 years?

There is also no longer a table to show the real median income growth excluding employer CPF contribution for the last 10 years and last 5 years.

As to “It also showed that in the current tight labour market, the proportion of locals entering the workforce was now greater than before.

He wrote on Facebook that the total higher employment rates were the result of a tight labour market and painstaking tripartite efforts to reduce barriers to employment.

He said he will continue to push for a higher re-employment age. Companies must now offer re-employment to eligible workers from age 62 up to 65. The NTUC wants this raised to 67.

As for local workers entering the labour force in record proportions, experts said this may not ease the burden felt by businesses currently struggling with a tight labour market.

“It depends on the rate of reduction of foreign labour,” said UOB economist Francis Tan.

He said the foreign worker policy continues to tighten in Singapore, with higher levies and stricter rules”

 

Resident unemployment rate increased?

– why has the non-seasonally adjusted resident unemployment rate increased from 3.7 to 3.9% last year, increasing to 82,600 from 2012′s 79,000 unemployed residents?

 

The labour market is tight, job growth is high, and yet the unemployment rate has risen?

No Singaporeans’ unemployment rate?

Also, why is there no longer a breakdown of the unemployment rate into residents and Singaporeans? In the past, the Singaporean unemployment rate was typically higher than the resident rate.

 

Highest unemployment rate was 5.4%

What I find to be rather strange is that the highest unemployment rate was for Service & Sales Workers at 5.4%. If this are the type of jobs which we have been consistently told that Singaporeans don’t want to work – why is the unemployment rate the highest?

Could it be due to the influx of foreign workers and the depression of wages in this job category, that may be the reason why Singaporeans who lose such jobs have a hard time finding another equivalent similar job with similar pay and working conditions?

In this connection, the basic median salary of shop sales assistants is only $1,074. I also understand that this Service & Sales Workers category has seen the highest number of jobs created in recent years.

 

$200 increase to $1,200 after 9 years?

I would also like to refer to the article “Low earners’ wages finally catch up” (Straits Times, Nov 30).

It states that “In July, operations support officer Siti Zaidah got her first promotion in nearly nine years, which came with a 20 per cent increase in pay amounting to $200.

“After the pay rise, things got a bit better,” said the 46-year-old, who now earns around $1,200 a month. “I can pay more of my bills, and I can go for some religious classes that I wanted to go for.”

– So, does it mean that after nine years, she only just received a $200 increment to just $1,200 at the age of 46? Does it mean that she was working for about only $1,000 for the last nine years?

 

400,000 workers earn less than $1,200?

In this connection, I estimate that there are about 400,000 resident workers (full and part-time) earning a gross income of less than $1,200.

With regard to “Low-income workers like her are finally getting wage rises that are in line with those for the rest of the country, according to preliminary figures released yesterday by the Manpower Ministry.

For workers at the 20th percentile of the income ladder, gross monthly incomes have risen 8.6 per cent to $1,885 over the past five years, after inflation is taken into account.

For those on the middle rungs of the ladder, real income has grown 9.7 per cent to $3,705 over this period”

 

Real income growth p.a. was 1.7%?

– So, does it mean that the real income growth per annum was only about 1.7 and 1.9% for the 20th percentile and median, respectively?

In respect of “In the previous five-year period, the gap was far wider.

From 2003 to 2008, gross monthly incomes actually fell by 0.6 per cent for workers at the 20th percentile, whereas median income growth was 7 per cent. That gave rise to a gap of 7.6 percentage points”

 

Real income growth p.a. last decade was 0.8%?

– does it mean that the real income growth per annum for the last decade was only about 0.8 and 1.6% for the 20th percentile and median, respectively?

However, the above are including employer CPF contribution, what was the real income growth per annum excluding employer CPF contribution?

 

1.2 % real median income growth last 11 years?

Since 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 – even with last year’s real income growth of 4.5 and 5.7% for all workers and full-time workers, respectively, does it mean that the real income growth per annum for the last 11 years was only about 1.2%?

 

0.6% 20th percentile real wage growth last 11 years?

Since I estimate that the 20th percentile of workers had only about 0.1 per cent per annum real wage growth (excluding employer CPF contribution) from 2002 to 2012 (“Lowest income had highest inflation & lowest pay rise?“, Feb 5) – and I am unable to find the real income growth for the last year, for the 20th percentile in the report – even if I assume that it was the same 5.7% as the median – does it mean that the real income growth per annum in the last 11 years was only about 0.6%?


No more statistics for all workers?

Since the above are for full-time workers, what are the statistics for all workers (full-time and part-time), which apparently are no longer published?

As to “Experts put the change down to the increased focus in recent years on helping low earners to catch up.

In addition, noted OCBC economist Selena Ling, curbs on foreign workers might have given employers an added impetus to improve the salaries of low-wage workers.

“Economic restructuring policies have also been more focused on low-skilled workers, with many efforts made to raise minimum wages in the past year or two,” she said”

– why is it that despite all the above initiatives – the estimated real growth per annum was still only about 0.6%?


Increase of only $6.18 per year for last 11 years?

To put this pathetic state of affairs into perspective – a low-wage worker at the 20th percentile earning $1,000 11 years ago, would only have had a real income increase to just about $1,068 now – a $6.18 increase per year over the last 11 years!

Does such a sad statistic justify the news article’s title of “Low earners’ wages finally catch up”?

 

What has Alex Au got to do with jobs and incomes?

So, let me get back to the original question which I asked at the beginning of this article – “What has Alex Au got to do with jobs and incomes?”

Well, like the 177 who have signed the statement supporting Alex Au are saying – that it affects the freedom of expression, fair comment and criticism of the Government – isn’t arguably having so much missing, incomplete or selective statistics as described above, kind of like limiting Singaporeans’ freedom of expression to analyse, make fair comment and criticise too?

 

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