SINGAPORE — In October last year, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong addressed the widening gap between the starting salaries of Institute of Technical Education (ITE), polytechnic, and university graduates.
He said a “wider change across the economy is needed” to recognise the “hands” and “heart” work, of which many can be found in the local services sector.
“We must move away from preconceptions that academic success should be prized above all others. Instead, we must respect those who labour with their hands and hearts, and confer upon them the same status as other paths. ”
However, an anonymous netizen commented on social media SGWhispers on last Friday (27 January) regarding Wong’s speech, claiming that he has better earnings after migrating to Australia rather than staying in Singapore.
The netizen stated that he is currently an Australian in his 30s. Before this, he was a Singaporean who graduated from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) — commonly scorned upon by Singapore parents as “It’s The End”.
But he said everyone in Singapore seemed to “looked down at him”, and he was only paid S$1.6k a month when he started working as an ITE graduate, ” and was told I “deserve” that pay as I am from ITE.”
Netizen claims to earn S$80k after taxes working as a plumber in Australia
“Packed my bags, left for Aussie and am now a plumber. I earn more than 100k here, even after paying my taxes, I am easily earning 80k, ” the netizen claimed, possibly referring to earning per annum, which means he might earn above $6,000 per month.
“What kinda ITE grad, in sg, doing hands work like plumbing, can earn 80k after taxes. Moreover, I am not a boss of a plumbing company. Just a simple plumber. ”
He further advised that people who work on their hands work like in nursing, construction, and plumbing “all should leave sg”.
He believed that a Singapore plumber’s salary would only increase from S$1.6k to S$1.8k “because in SG, always will have cheaper labour across the causeway mah. ”
According to the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), some 900,000 Malaysians work in Singapore, with around 300,000 of these workers commuting between the two countries daily.
Netizens commented that blue-collar jobs are “more appreciated” in other developed countries
Other Singapore netizens soon commented on the post. While other netizens left salty comments, netizen Goh Tian Soon reminded that in other countries, “blue collar jobs are more appreciated other than in local. ”
“Perhaps it is the result of our education system which emphasized on academia. If got chance should venture oversea.”
Netizen Michael Sheridan claimed Singapore dollar is “stronger” than Australian Dollar, considering the housing loads rate at 4.31%, value-added tax(VAT) at 10%, and 7.8% inflation, he thinks he better stay in Singapore, “can take bus to JB or fly to BKK. SGD much more stronger for an affordable holiday.”
However, netizen LM SY argued that he should be comparing the earnings of both Singaporean and Australian plumber employees. This is because local plumber employees might only earn S$20,000 or a maximum of S$30,000 per annum, in contrast with the fat paycheck the Australian plumber earned.
In reply, Michael Sheridan said a licensed skilled plumber can earn as high as S$7,000 per month in Singapore, without stating the sources of his info.
Another netizen Li Shan commented that cleaners in Australia could also earn a lot, “some of them are from China n they drive Audi .. true story.”
Li Shan added that Workplace in Australia is “quite a level playing field”, and most people can live a fairly decent life in terms of access to housing, healthcare, etc.
Australian plumber earns a median annual of AUS$96,460 and SG S$36,000
As of 30 January, the exchange rate of Singapore dollars against Australian dollars is S$1 to AUS$0.93.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, median Australian employee earnings were AUS$1,250 per week, up AUS$50 (4.2%) since August 2021.
While median weekly earnings for electricity, gas, water and waste services — what a plumber would be earning — is said to be AUS$1,855 per week since August 2022, up from AUS$1,730 or a sum of AUS$96,460 a year (52 weeks).
Back in Singapore, the Manpower Ministry does not appear to have a similar classification of professionals in its table of wages. The closest resemblance of the professional is that of a supervisor/general foreman (building and related trades) under the construction sector, who earns a median income of S$3,000, which comes at an annual salary of S$36,000. Note that this includes the employee and employer’s contribution of the Central Provident Fund (CPF).
This is similar to that by Channel News Asia, which says a licensed plumber typically earns more than a regular plumber, whose average salary is about S$3,000.
It is worth noting that not all companies in Singapore practice the payment of the “13th month” on top of payment for the 12 months of work, which accounts for the additional month of work from 52 weeks in a year. This is also not mandatory under Singapore labour law.
Of course, one would say the tax for an Australian worker would be far higher than that of a worker in Singapore. Indeed, a worker earning AUS$96,640 in 2022, would have to pay a tax of AUS$21,816.50 while a worker earning S$36,000 would only have to pay a tax of S$410.
But even if the worker in Australia pays all the taxes required of him or her, the worker still earns significantly more than the worker in Singapore.
Furthermore, the worker is entitled to state benefits such as free healthcare, whereas the worker in Singapore merely gets subsidised healthcare.
Former GIC economist Yeoh Lam Keong previously commented on the matter of minimum wage in Singapore, “This is because we have had uncontrolled excessive immigration for so long and in such quantity for the two decades ending around 2010 that our lowest decile wages are far below the living wage and those of comparable developed economies,”