Wages & Productivity: Statistically quite meaningless?

June 7, 2012

~ By Leong Sze Hian ~

I refer to the report “8,000 low-wage workers benefited from Inclusive Growth Programme” (Channel NewsAsia, 4 June 2012).

How representative are these 8,000 with increased pay, of all low-wage workers?
It states that “A programme to improve the skills of low-wage workers and help them earn better pay has benefited some 8,000 workers so far”. How many Singaporeans are earning a monthly wage of $1,700 and below? What percentage of the total do the 8,000 represent?
How many Singaporeans are being helped now?
As to “Six in 10 will receive productivity-led wage increase of at least 10 per cent”, what about the other four in 10? Will there be no increase or a very small increase in wages? Without the above statistics, how can we evaluate the effectiveness of the programme?
Since we are able to say that “another 33,000 workers will stand to gain when all 540 projects under the programme are fully implemented, of which 24,000 are Singaporeans”, why is there no break-down as to how many of the 8,000 who have already benefited are Singaporeans?
Are we helping more non-Singaporeans?
Also, since the proportion of Singaporean workers to resident (Singaporean plus Permanent Residents (PRs)) workers is about 85 per cent, why is it that the ratio of Singaporeans to workers benefiting under the programme is only about 73 per cent? Why is “Inclusive Growth” apparently benefiting more non-Singaporeans, on a proportional basis?
How many had an increase in real pay?
What percentage of all Singaporean workers earning $1,700 and below, had an increase in wages which resulted in a real wage increase last year, given that the median real wage increase last year was – 0.8 per cent? Since half of all workers had a -0.8 per cent real wage increase, could it be that most Singaporeans earning $1,700 and below also had a negative wage increase?
When do we expect all the 540 projects to be fully implemented? After all, the programme did start in August 2010.
46,000 improved their productivity, but 8,000 had their pay increased?
Since “e2i helped a total of 46,000 workers last year, in terms of job placement, skills upgrading, and upward wage adjustments through productivity improvements, a 15 per cent increase from 2010”, why is it that only 8,000 benefited by earning higher pay?
Statistically quite meaningless?
Let me use an analogy to illustrate the problem with the statistics that you have been reading. I tell you that my programme is a success because I helped eight people, but I didn’t tell you that there are actually 800 people who need help, or that most of the people’s situation may actually have gotten worse.
Foretelling the future without past statistics?
Finally, since “Six in 10 (of the 24,000 Singaporeans) will receive a productivity-led wage increase of at least 10 per cent” (in the future), does it mean that we are able to foretell the future? Why is there is no indication of how much the pay rise is for the 8,000 who have already benefited?

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.