If there’s a shortage, why is the jobless rate for cleaners high?

Straits Times Forum

Mar 29, 2012

WE OFTEN read that Singaporeans do not want to be cleaners (‘Where have the cleaners gone?’; Monday).

If that is so, why is it that the unemployment rate for cleaners, labourers and related workers, at 5.1 per cent, was the second highest among all job categories, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s Singapore Workforce 2011 report?

This is much higher than the overall unemployment rate of 3 per cent for Singaporeans.

When I volunteered to help out at a recent job fair, I met two elderly Singaporeans who came to apply for jobs as cleaners. One had lost her job to another worker who was willing to work for even lower pay, despite the former having worked as a cleaner for many years. She managed to find another job as a cleaner at a hawker centre, working 12 hours a day, with only a day off every two weeks, for about $4 an hour.

In this respect, I agree with Law and Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam who, in referring to the recent debate over whether Singaporeans earning $850 or $1,000 a month can buy a Housing Board flat, said: ‘We don’t want anyone to earn that amount’ (‘2012 Budget leaves no one behind, says Shanmugam’; March 12).

Leong Sze Hian

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.