Unidentified business people cross road in downtown Singapore. (Image by TK Kurikawa / Shutterstock.com)

4 in 5 Singaporeans say salaries not matching up to costs and complain about wage stagnation

South China Morning Post reported yesterday (18 Nov) that based on a recent survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) at NUS, majority of Singaporeans are feeling “stuck in their social classes”.

The findings, released last month (29 Oct) in a paper titled ‘Faultlines in Singapore: Public Opinion on their Realities, Management and Consequences’, covered some 4,015 people aged 18 and above. The survey was conducted between August 2018 and January this year by IPS.

The survey asked respondents if they felt their financial status would improve in a decade’s time, more than five in 10 said they would experience negligible financial mobility while fewer than one in 10 felt their fortunes would decline.

This pessimism cut across all education levels. Only 44 per cent of those with a degree were hopeful of upward mobility in 10 years’ time, with the figure falling to 40.6 per cent for Singaporeans with vocational training or a polytechnic diploma. For those with a secondary school education or below, such as food deliveryman Alroy Ho, 32, only 23.8 per cent expected to do better in future, with 10.6 per cent thinking they would be worse off.

SCMP conducted its own survey and found that 4 out of 5 Singaporeans interviewed said their pessimism boiled down to salaries not matching up to costs, and a sense that wages were stagnant.

A Singaporean by the name of “Ho” was interviewed by SCMP. Ho did not complete secondary school, uses an e-scooter for his work and takes home between S$2,000 and S$3,000 a month, depending on the number of deliveries he makes. With the recent ban of Personel Mobility Devices on footpaths, he may have to get a motorbike licence and buy a bike to continue at his job. This stretches his already thin finances after supporting a wife and a five-year-old and getting a new three-room flat next year.

“I really don’t know what will happen 10 years later. You ask me to look at just the next two years, and I also don’t know how to survive,” said Ho. “It’s a very rich country but it’s progressing way too fast, not everyone can catch up with the progression.”

As for degree holders such as Beatrice, 24, who writes for a magazine, they too feel the pinch.

Beatrice takes home less than S$3,000 a month and is paying off a student loan of S$28,700 after her four-year bachelor of arts in literature course. She tries to be optimistic about her future, but the cost of living is high and her pay seems stagnant. “I feel stifled,” she said. She lives with her parents in their four-room flat “out of necessity”.

Meanwhile, the Singapore government continues to allow more foreign PMETs to enter into Singapore to work:

The S-Pass allows mid-level foreign PMETs to work in Singapore. Foreign applicants only need to earn a minimum of S$2,300 a month with the relevant qualifications.

This is in line with its Population White Paper policy which was passed in Feb 2013 where the government set a target of introducing 30,000 new permanent residents and 25,000 naturalized citizens each year to sustain Singapore’s population due to the falling birth rates in Singapore.

While the target set in the PWP is 6.9 million but it is pretty obvious that the end goal of the government is 10 million with the ongoing future planning in place.

With more mid-level foreign PMETs coming into Singapore to work at below $2,500 a month, Singaporeans like Beatrice would have to contend with wage stagnation at less than $3,000 and continue to feel “stifled”. The only saving grace is that at least she still has her parents’ house to stay in.

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