After the Government announced that more employees in Singapore will be permitted to return to their workplaces from 5 Apr this year, many local cleaning firms saw a sharp increase in demand.
Companies have been looking for cleaning services firms to conduct deep cleaning as they were shut for a long time due to the pandemic, resulting in a build-up of dirt in the premises.
Besides deep-cleaning and disinfection services, employers are also seeking professional who can be stationed at their offices for regular cleaning and maintenance.
“Some companies have previously engaged regular cleaners to be at their office daily but during the pandemic last year with everyone working from home, they terminated this service.
“Now that more people are going back to the office, companies are looking at hiring daily cleaners again,” said Clean Lab’s business development manager Serene Chang to CNA.
However, the bigger issue now is that there’s a shortage of people who are willing to work as cleaners despite the high demand in Singapore.
Conrad Maintenance Services’ managing director Raymond Ng told CNA that his employees have been clocking longer hours and that he has tried offering higher salaries to hire new cleaners but to no avail.
According to him, this is because locals have continued to shun the industry.
“We are facing a very serious manpower problem, probably the worst since I started 18 years ago,” Mr Ng said, adding that the labour shortage problem has been a perennial one.
In order to deal with this, his company opted to focus just on industrial and commercial office cleaning five years ago.
Another company, CKS General Services, also revealed that it is struggling with insufficient workers, especially after more than half of its workforce returned home to Malaysia last year during the start of the lockdown.
“They haven’t been able to come back and with the situation uncertain, we also find it difficult to bring them back because some customers may not feel safe,” said the company’s senior sales executive Joelle Een to CNA.
“So we try to hire locally. We have posted job advertisements offering S$1,800 to S$2,300 for the past six to nine months but no one wants to be a cleaner.”
In fact, the company has also tried out other options, like participating in job fairs organised by Workforce Singapore and posting its vacancies on other platforms such as Telegram and Facebook.
The company is also looking into focusing more on home cleaning given that it is less manpower-intensive. It also predicts this part of the business will improve once people move back to the office.
Other companies, like Clean Lab, have explored technology to cope with the lack of manpower. The company uses a specialised machine to disperse its disinfection mist.
“From within the keyboards to other hard-to-reach surfaces like the top of cabinets, it will ensure a very detailed disinfection and make the job more effective for our workers,” said Ms Chang.
Low wages reason behind low take-up of cleaner jobs, netizens say
Over on social media, online users pointed out that the main reason why they don’t apply for a job as a cleaner is due to the low wages that are being offered.
Penning their thoughts on CNA’s Facebook page, they explained that these workers barely get a sufficient amount of salary even though the cleaning firms charge their client full fees.
If that’s not all, they also pointed out that this is the result of over-relying on foreign workers as firms are finding it hard to increase their manpower since borders are still shut.
Some users also expressed that long working hours is another reason why cleaning jobs are not attractive to locals.
One user explained that she once spoke to a cleaner in her 80s and she was constantly asked to work by her supervisor. The elderly cleaner was not allowed to take a break.
As such, the user said: “Think with the micromanagement, people would think twice about taking up the job as it’s a menial task. Need a lot of strength and energy, so must give an allowance of giving them a break in between.”
Others said that the Government has to step in and set a minimum wage for this industry to make the cleaning industry attractive to locals.
Some online users suggested that local cleaners should be paid around S$3000 with regular working hours. This will then guarantee that Singaporeans will apply for the job.