Foreign workers hit all-time high?

Unemployment rate for S’poreans improve

I refer to the article “Unemployment rate for Singaporeans improves in first quarter: Manpower Ministry” (Straits Times, Apr 28).

It states that “The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 1.9 per cent as of March 2016. The rate for citizens fell to 2.6 per cent, from 3 per cent in December, and that for Singaporeans and PRs combined was 2.7 per cent, down from 2.9 per cent, according to preliminary estimates released by the Manpower Ministry (MOM) on Thursday (April 28).

This was largely because a smaller proportion of young people aged 15 to 24 were working or looking for work, MOM said.

Total employment reached 3,667,600 as of March 2016.”

No breakdown of employment into locals & foreigners?

Although the MOM report did not breakdown the total employment into foreigners and locals, we can estimate it from the number of unemployed and the unemployment rate.

The estimated number of locals’ employed is 2,237,037 (60,400 unemployed locals divided by residents’ unemployment rate of 2.7 per cent).

Foreign workers hit all-time high of 39%?

So, does it mean that the percentage of foreign workers is about 39 per cent (3,667,600 total employment – 2,237,037 locals divided by 3,667,600)?

This is higher than the 37.9 per cent in December 2015 (1,387,300 foreigners divided by 3,656,200 total employment).

Hence, has foreign employment reached another all-time high of about 39 per cent?

How many new PRs/new citizens?

By the way, how many new PRs and new citizens were granted in the first quarter of this year, which may throw a different light to the numbers estimated above?

2% of jobs growth to locals?

Also, since only 2.2 per cent of jobs growth last year went to locals (700 jobs) against 97.8 per cent (31,600 jobs) to foreigners – how many of the 11,400 jobs growth in the first quarter went to Singaporeans?

Leong Sze Hian

0.9% p.a. real wage growth in 10 years!

Worry when wages race ahead of productivity? 

I refer to the article “When wages race ahead of productivity: Should we worry?” (Sunday Times, Apr 24).

0.9% p.a. real wage growth in a decade?

The real average wage growth was only 0.9 per cent per annum from 2004 to 2014 (Source: Ministry of Trade and Industry Economic Survey of Singapore 2015).

To put this in perspective – a worker who earned $1,000 would only have had a real increase of $94 to $1,094 after 10 years!

Similarly, a worker who earned $2,000 would only have had a real increase of $188 to $2,188 after 10 years!

S’poreans’ real wage growth even lower?

As I understand that the statistics are for residents – was the real average wage growth for Singaporeans even lower than 0.9 per cent?

“Average” means more than half had less than 0.9%?

Since it is “average wage growth” – does it mean that more than half of Singaporean workers may have had real average wage growth of even less than 0.9 per cent?

Many countries had low wage growth despite higher productivity growth?

Although productivity at 0.8 per cent per annum lagged behind real wage growth of 0.9 per cent – the consistent rhetoric over the years that wages should not go up without corresponding productivity growth may not hold water, as many developed and developing countries had low real wage growth despite higher productivity growth.

For example, the real average wage growth as a ratio of productivity growth for Australia, United States, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Britain, was 1.0, 0.7, 0.4, 0.1, 0.0 and -0.5 respectively.

Singapore’s ratio was 1.2.

Leong Sze Hian

Jobs: Strange data on IT workers, union members?

More people lost jobs last year

I refer to the article “More people lost jobs last year, with manufacturing and services hit hardest” (Straits Times, Apr 20).

It states that “Seventy per cent of those who secured new jobs found them in a different industry from before, with wholesale and retail trade and administrative and support services being the most likely areas with vacancies.”

72.8% of IT workers shifted to other industries?

According to the MOM report – 72.8 per cent of Information & Communications workers who were made redundant and managed to re-enter employment – shifted to other industries.

The above seems rather odd, given that “The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) told The Straits Times that in 2014, when there were 150,000 technology professionals working in Singapore, about 15,000 vacancies could not be filled” (“S’pore may lack 30,000 professionals by 2017; not enough local grads, says industry”, Straits Times, Feb 8).

Union members harder to get re-employed?

The other odd statistic may arguably be that the “Rate of Re-entry into Employment of Residents Made Redundant” for union members decreased from 69.1 in 2014 to 59.6 in 2015.

In contrast, the rate for non-union members increased from 67.1 to 67.6.

So, does it mean that union members had a harder time relatively – in getting re-employed?

Locals redundancy 40% more than foreigners?

As to “Overall, residents were less vulnerable to lay-offs compared to foreigners, with the incidence of redundancy among residents at 7.1 layoffs per 1,000 employees lower than foreigners at 7.7 per 1,000” (Channel NewsAsia, Apr 20) – 9,090 or 58 per cent of the 15,580 redundancies were locals, with 6,490 being foreigners.

So, locals’ redundancy was 40 per cent (9,090 divided by 6,490) more than foreigners.

Foreigners’ jobs growth 4,400% more than locals? 

Since foreigners’ jobs growth last year was about 4,400 per cent more than locals’ jobs growth (31,600 foreigners divided by 700 locals) – locals (Singaporeans and PRs) may be in a sense being hit at both ends.

I shutter to think how many thousands of per cent more it was for Singaporeans, since “locals” include PRs!

Leong Sze Hian


People’s Association is not partisan?

People’s Association is not partisan

I refer to the article “People’s Association is not partisan: Chan Chun Sing” (Channel NewsAsia, Apr 14).

It states that “”The PA is a statutory board. It executes the directions for the Government of the day, as per any statutory board. The PA does not allow any political activity or canvassing on our premises or in our activities. And we certainly do not mobilise anyone for any political party,” Mr Chan reiterated.

“If Ms Lim has any such evidence of wrongdoing, you can let me know, and I guarantee you I will follow up. I will be the last person to ever allow the PA to be politicised.””

PA is “not partisan”?

GIven that the PA is “not partisan” –

… why was there a transfer of the leases of 26 community sites in Aljunied, from the Town Council to the People’s Association?

… why is it that requests from opposition town councils to use facilities managed by the PA were rejected?

…  why is it that for RC activities in opposition wards – the PAP Branch Chairman and Grassroots Advisor (normally the losing PAP candidate), are typically invited?

… why are Community Clubs generally not open to opposition MPs for community purposes?

… why is it that the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC) disburses its funds through the CCCs’ recommendations?

… why is it that from 2011 to 2015, AHPETC did not receive any CIPC funds (about 17 projects were approved in 2013, but work has not started on any of them as of September 2015)?

… why are HDB upgrading projects handled through the grassroots advisor, instead of the opposition MP of the constituency?

Leong Sze Hian


50,770 new citizens/PRs in 2015?

Involve new citizens in all aspects of local life

I refer to the article “New citizens need to get involved in all aspects of local life: Josephine Teo” (Channel NewsAsia, Apr 13).

20,815 new citizens & 29,955 new PRs?

It states that “There were 20,815 new citizens, and 29,955 new Permanent Residents (PRs) in 2015, as the Government kept its “calibrated pace of immigration””.

Compared to the 20,348 new citizens and 29,854 new PRs in 2014 – this is an increase of 2.3 and 0.3 per cent respectively.

552,906 new citizens & PRs from 2007 – 2015?

This brings the total number of new citizens and PRs granted from 2007 to 2015, to 174,166 and 378,740  respectively.

700 locals’ jobs’ growth vs 50,770 new citizens/PRs?

As there were only 700 locals’ jobs’ growth last year compared to the 31,600 foreign jobs’ growth – how many of the 700 locals’ jobs went to Singaporeans given that there were 50,770 new citizens and PRs?

How many S’poreans have to compete with new citizens/PRs?

Does it also mean that many Singaporeans may have lost their jobs (700 locals’ jobs’ growth!) as the bulk of the 50,770 new citizens and PRs may be having or competing for jobs too?

And mind you – this may be on top of the competition from foreign workers.

Reciprocate trust with more transparency?

Since the people have given their trust and mandate – shouldn’t we reciprocate by being more transparent?

Leong Sze Hian

Back to the time when Press Freedom ranking was not 154th?

There has been much discussion and debate in recent days about censorship, freedom of expression and the Press.

My regular HDB insider sent me the following very interesting article (Straits Times, Aug 16, 1981) on the issue of the costs of HDB flats:-

“HDB’s ‘guess-timates’ on the cost of housing

It is all a question of timing.  If the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had come up with their criticisms of Housing and Development Board accounting practices before the massive price hikes in May, the report would have been read and passed off without so much as a whimper.

But it comes how on the heels of the latest HDB price rises, the third successive increase in three years.

And with the fact that HDB flat prices have been increased by an average of 38 per cent fresh on our minds, it is no wonder that the PAC report has caused much concern among the public and Parliament.

Much of this concern stems from two major points made by the PAC.

The first is that the major activities of the HDB are not shown in the annual income and expenditure accounts of the Board.

As a result, “a complete picture of HDB’s performance annually” is not available.

The second springs from the fact that the HDB is involved in a variety of activities – from the sale of flats, leasing of land and manufacturing to other peripheral activities such as a quarry, a tile and brick factory.

The PAC calls for separate accounts to be kept so that the cost of housing can be clearly shown.

Also contained in the PAC report is the criticism of the “double account” system which the HDB practices.

What has sprung out of the PAC report is the erroneous impression that the “double account” system is the root of all evil.

It has resulted in a widespread feeling that a switch to a “single account system”, or as it is more correctly known “the general accepted accounting principle” will result in a true picture of the HDB’s performance.

Or of greater importance, the real cost of an HDB flat.

There is also the impression that perhaps the HDB is making money from the sale of flats.

This, if it were true, is tantamount to treason in the eyes of the Singapore public.


The HDB is thus under great pressure to change to a single account system, for that, in the minds of many, will enable the public to know the true cost of housing development, and perhaps even show that the Board has been making money from the sale of flats.

This is a simplistic view, and one that isn’t true.

The crux of the entire problem is not accounting systems, but the fact that the Housing Board is just not able to come up with the exact costs of building an HDB flat.

It follows then that the HDB cannot include the sales figures of HDB flats in the income and expenditure account because it does not have the corresponding costs of building the flats that have been sold.

Even the costs of flats given in the HDB’s annual report are at best “guess-timates” based on the tender prices of contractors bidding for the project.

And these are only average costs, which do not reflect the difference in costs in building flats in various parts of the island.

There are also hidden subsidies such as administrative costs, design supervision, architectural fees and interests on loans.

These costs are minor compared to the infrastructural costs of developing an entire HDB estate.

Ang Mo Kio, Toa Payoh, Woodlands – these are new towns literally springing up from nowhere.

The infrastructural costs of building feeder roads, link roads, sewerage system, telephone cables, electric cables and gas pipes are enormous, even mind boggling.

Just as important are the land cost which are not included in the breakdown costs contained in the Board’s annual report.

HDB estates are normally built on government acquired land – the Board has yet to find an equitable valuation method.

To complicate the issue of land cost even further is the fact that many HDB estates are not developed in one go.

If land costs are to be included in the computation of the selling price of an HDB flat, the Board is faced with the problem of figuring out ow to apportion the land costs between the various stages of development.

The matter is further complicated by the fact that estates grow in many ways.  Sometimes, new blocks are built in old estates.

If the land costs were already absorbed by the original flats, are the new flats to be sold without land costs?

New land may be acquired for old estates at prices different from the original acquisition prices.  Are the new flats to reflect this difference?

These are some of the vital questions that have to be resolved before the HDB can attempt to truly value their flats.

A high ranking HDB official admits that the Board does not have a detailed costing system for HDB flats.

The cost components are not well-separated, as such, true costs are almost an enigma to the Board.

Another high ranking government official also admits that the complexity of costing an HDB flat is a major stumbling block to the Board being able to give a complete picture of its performance.

Others even go so far as to say that it is not that the HDB does not want to, it just does not know how to.

The reason for this is historical.  The HDB took over the functions, as well as the assets of the now defunct Singapore Improvement Trust (SIT).

The SIT, and even the HDB originally only leased these flats.  As a result no proper records on the actual costs of low-cost housing were kept.  There was no need to.

But this is no longer true of the HDB of today.  Selling flats is its major activity.


The Auditor-General himself has noted that the major activities of the Board has changed, so much so that “proceeds from sales and leases of land which amounted to only $8,068,600 for the year ended Dec 31, 1964 has increased to $539,513,061 for the year ended March 31, 1980.”

It has reached such proportions that the sales figures must be included in the annual income and expenditure of the Board for a complete picture of its performance.

The HDB must thus start on the gargantuan task of working out the actual costs of an HDB flat as soon as possible.

Delaying it would only make their task more difficult, and even impossible in the future.

It has already made attempts to account separately the other costs such as car parks, hawker centres, markets and the results of these have been included in the annual income and expenditure accounts.

They have also stated their intentions to include in the income  and expenditure account of 1980/81 the operating results of their peripheral activities.

These are steps in the right direction.  But they are little steps in the path to the complete picture of HDB’s annual performance.

The giant leap is to show the profits or the losses resulting from the sale of flats.

The public should be told whether the HDB does make or lose money from the sale of HDB flats.

And if losses are made, the extent of subsidy must be known and as assessment of the degree of subsidy made.”

Leong Sze Hian


Employment Pass growth 13 times more than locals?

New measures to help unemployed S’poreans

I refer to the article “Parliament: New measures to help unemployed Singaporeans and employers who take them on” (Straits Times, Apr 8).

21% of jobs over $3,300 are foreigners?

It states that “Nationwide, 21 per cent of jobs within the Employment Pass salary range of $3,300 and above are filled by foreigners, and the growth of Employment Pass holders has slowed to 9,000 in 2015, down from 32,000 in 2011”.

Employment Pass growth 13 times more than locals?

Since locals’ jobs’ growth was only 700 in 2015 – does it mean that Employment Pass holders’ growth last year was about 1,200 per cent (9,000 divided by 700) or about 13 times that of locals’ jobs’ growth?

Employment Pass growth how many times more than S’poreans?

Since we do not know how many of the locals’ jobs’ growth of 700 were Singaporeans – the Employment Pass holders’ growth may be even more than 20 times that of locals’ jobs’ growth.

Foreigners competing with S’porean PMETs? 

Since about 28 per cent of the 31,600 foreigners’ jobs growth (9,000 divided by 31,600) last year was due to Employment Pass holders – is it not indicative that foreigners arguably, may be taking away jobs from Singaporean PMETs?

What % of jobs to PRs?

Also, since 21 per cent of jobs within  the Employment Pass salary range of $3,300 and above are filled by foreigners – what percentage are filled by permanent residents (PRs)?

PRs & foreigners earn more than S’poreans?

Since PRs generally earn more than Singaporeans – do foreigners on Employment Pass also generally earn more than Singaporeans?

550,000 new citizens/PRs?

In this connection, if the number of new citizens and PRs granted last year was about the same as the  50,202 (20,348 new citizens + 29,854 new PRs) in 2014 – does it mean that there were about 550,000 (estimated) new citizens (175,000) and new PRs (375,000) granted from 2007 to 2015?

Reciprocate trust with more transparency?

Since the people have given their trust and mandate – shouldn’t we reciprocate by being more transparent?

Leong Sze Hian

CPF: Things that you probably don’t know? (Part 4)

To deceased’s nominee’s CPF instead of cash?

Under the CPF Enhanced Nomination Scheme – one can choose to on death – give one’s CPF to his or her nominee(s)’ CPF instead of the normal cash under the CPF Nomination Scheme.

Can choose how much to Special & Medisave accounts?

You can also specify the proportion of your CPF which will go into the nominee(s)’ CPF Special and Medisave accounts.

For example, you can choose to put say 10 per cent to Medisave and 90 per cent to the Special account.

Withdrawals subject to CPF rules in the future?

The nominee(s) who receive your CPF can withdraw subject to the Full Retirement Sum (FRS – currently $161,000) and Basic Retirement Sum (BRS – currently $80,500) rules – which apply when they reach age 55 for their Special account, and the Medisave withdrawal eligibility rules and limits as well as approved insurance premiums like MediShield Life, Integrated Plans and ElderShield.

Leong Sze Hian

Which constituency has highest no. of “not upgraded” flats?

Aljunied-Hougang among 3 town councils with largest no. of HIP-eligible flats

I refer to the article “Aljunied-Hougang among 3 Town Councils with largest number of HIP-eligible flats” (Channel NewsAsia, Apr 6).

It states that “The three Town Councils with the largest number of eligible Housing and Development Board (HDB) flats for the Home Improvement Programme (HIP) are Aljunied-Hougang, Jurong-Clementi and Nee Soon …

… the HDB is working to complete the selection of the remaining HIP-eligible flats by Financial Year 2018.

Flats built up to 1986 and have not undergone the Main Upgrading Programme are eligible for the HIP”.

Which town council has the largest no.?

Which of the three town councils have the largest number of eligible HDB flats for the HIP?

Which constituency has the largest no.?

Is Hougang the constituency with the highest number amongst all single constituencies?

Which GRC has the largest no.?

Is Aljunied the GRC with the highest number amongst all GRCs?

Statistics on “upgrading” issue?

Since we are on the subject of upgrading, let’s look at some historical statistics on the “upgrading” issue and government grants to town councils.

“According to the Straits Times’ report of March 25, 2006, “The gathering storm”:

Aljunied had $560 grant vs Potong Pasir’s $113 per household?

“Taking into account all the grants from the Government, the Aljunied TownCouncil, for example, gets $560 per household for the financial year ending March 2005.

The grants include funds from the Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC), which is controlled by the Ministry of National Development.

In contrast, government grants came up to just $113 per household in Potong Pasir.”

In another report on the same day, “Hougang’s Low may be ‘heart’ to beat”, the Straits Times reported:

Hougang had only $111 grant per household?

“Government grants came up to about $111 per household in Hougang in 2004-05. By contrast, neighbouring Aljunied Town Council, which has access to funds such as the government-controlled Community Improvement Projects Committee (CIPC), got $560 per household for the same period.””

Leong Sze Hian



ElderShield: $90m claims since 2002 – premiums collected?

$90m ElderShield claims since 2002

I refer to the article “S$90m paid out in ElderShield claims since its 2002 launch” (Channel NewsAsia, Apr 5).

It states that “Around S$90 million has been paid out since ElderShield was launched in 2002, with about 12,500 successful claims.”

How much premiums collected since 2002?

What is the total premiums collected since 2002? About $2 billion (estimate)?

What is the total claims ($90 million) to total premiums ($? billion) ratio?

What was the claims ratio for each of the years, since 2002 of the scheme?

“As at end 2015, there were 1.2 million ElderShield policyholders, or about 65 per cent of the resident population aged 40 to 83”

Tan Kin Lian on “Supplement (product) to ElderShield”

According to Tan Kin Lian’s article “Should I buy a supplement to Eldershield?” (Jan 31, 2016) – “What is a fair payout rate that makes the policy worth buying? The answer is 50% to 70%. If the total claim payout is 50% to 70% of the premium, the insurance product is worth buying.

The average profit ratio is 50%. Allowing for expense ratio of 20%, the long term claim ratio is only 30%. This is extremely high.

Conclusion – the payout for the Eldershield supplement is too low. Consumers are paying too a high premium for a small return.”

Leong Sze Hian