NWC, NTUC have failed to protect low-wage workers?

Photo: Narin BI/CC BY 2.0Photo: Narin BI/CC BY 2.0

So many low-wage workers did not get the NWC recommended increments!

I refer to the article “Fewer low-wage workers received pay rises in 2016” (Straits Times, Feb 9).

It states that “About 60 per cent of companies with workers earning a basic monthly pay of $1,100 and below said that they did not give, or did not intend to give, these employees wage increases last year. In 2015, only 53.5 per cent of companies had said the same.

About half the profitable companies which did better last year than in 2015 granted pay rises. But this proportion plunged to just over a quarter among loss-making companies.

The National Wages Council’s wage guidelines for 2016-2017 had recommended a built-in monthly pay rise of $50 to $65 – opting for a range instead of a fixed sum like in past years. About 21 per cent of companies gave their low-wage workers salary increases of at least $50, up from the 18.5 per cent in 2015 who stuck to that year’s guideline of a hike of least $60.

The NWC, labour movement and the Government have all failed miserably in protecting low-wage workers.

Year after year, we see the statistics that so many companies, including those which are profitable – not giving the increments to low-wage workers.

Only about 21 per cent of companies gave their low-wage workers salary increases of at least $50 (as recommended).

13.1 per cent of low-wage workers had a wage cut, 11.9 per cent had no pay increase at all, and a whopping 54 per cent had wage increases of less than the recommended $50.

In this connection, there were 69,800 unemployed residents as of June 2017, and 125,900 residents earning a gross monthly income (including employer CPF contribution) of less than $1,000.

407,400 earn less than $1,500?

There were 407,400 residents (about 19.4 per cent of the total workforce of 2.1 million) whose median gross income was less than $1,500 monthly.

After CPF = less than $1,200?

If we deduct the maximum employee CPF contribution of 20 per cent – the net take-home pay may be less than $1,200.

Arguably, most of the 407,400 people with take-home pay of less than $1,200 may be struggling to make ends meet.

47,000 earn less than $500?

If we breakdown the 407,400 earning less than $1,500 into 47,000 earning less than $500, 125,900 earning less than $1,000 and 234,500 earning less than $1,500 – the financial stress that lower-income workers may be facing may be even worse.

No breakdown into S’poreans & PRs?

Moreover, since permanent residents (PRs) generally earn more than Singaporeans – I shudder to think what the above statistics may look like for Singaporeans.

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.