By SY Lee and Leong Sze Hian
We refer to the article “National Wages Council recommendation: $60 pay hike for workers earning under $1,000” (Straits Times, May 31).
Yet another recommendation for less than $1,000 workers?
The article states that the National Wages Council (NWC) had recommended in its annual wage guidelines issued on Friday that workers earning less than $1,000 each month should get a pay hike of at least $60 , which follows its previous recommendations in 2012 and 2013 that these workers receive minimum pay hikes of $50 and $60.
6 in 10 followed the guidelines?
It further added that while more firms followed the guidelines last year – about six in 10 compared to three in 10 in 2012. The National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) noted that they still lag behind the nine in 10 unionised firms.
8 in 10 will follow the guidelines?
Why do the above statistics seem to differ from that reported on the same day in the Business Times (“Minimum $60 pay rise for low income“, May 31) – “As at the end of last year, almost eight in 10 employers in the private sector had given or said that they intended to give a raise to workers earning less than $1,000 a month, up from six in 10 in 2012″?
What we need to know is the percentage of workers earning below $1,000 who received the recommended increase, instead of what proportion of employers or unionised companies who were surveyed accepted the recommendations or said that they intended to do it?
In this connection, the last time that the specific statistic was available last year for 2012, was that more than 70% who did not get the recommended increase.
So much for yet another survey?
If you remember last year, only 3 in 10 workers earning less than $1,000 received the at least $50 increment recommended by the NWC in 2012. (see here)
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 in 2012, but only three in 10 non-unionised companies followed suit.
If not for the MOM report which came out just a few days after the media reports last year – 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!
NWC still relevant?
Has the NWC outlived its usefulness (and the union movement too)? – particularly from the perspective of lower-income workers – when the number of full-time workers earning less than $1,000 has remained almost the same in recent years (and we have not even adjusted the $1,000 for yearly inflation), and the real median and 20th percentile gross and basic wage growth (excluding employer CPF contribution) has been about 1 and close to 0 per cent per annum in the last decade or so.
Real wages drop from age 37 to 20% less than when they were age 25?
Also, according to the study on retirement adequacy (“ADEQUACY OF SINGAPORE’S CENTRAL PROVIDENT FUND PAYOUTS: INCOME REPLACEMENT RATES OF ENTRANT WORKERS”) commissioned by the Government in November 2012 – The graph on page 6 show us the wage trend of Singaporean workers.
The real growth in wages at the 30th percentile of income male workers – starts to decline from around age 37 until by age 65 – they are earning about 20% less than what they were getting at age 25!
Productivity fell 0.2%?
On the point which the council urged firms not to let up on the productivity drive, as they note that real wage increases should be in line with productivity growth over the long term, in order to be sustainable
Why are we still singing the same old song that wages can only increase with productivity increases – when productivity growth last year fell by 0.2 per cent, despite the billion dollar wage credit scheme?