6 “News” in 1 day, but pay still $1,000?

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

Why do we keep talking for years about helping lower-income elderly workers?

I refer to the article “Impact of Progressive Wage Model” (Straits Times, Feb 28).

It states that “A Income inequality and wage stagnation are serious concerns among low-income workers throughout the world. Singapore is no exception. Various politicians and scholars have advocated a national minimum wage to tackle the problem. However, the Government in Singapore has roundly rejected a minimum wage in favour of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM).

The PWM was recommended for the cleaning and security sectors in 2014, and the landscaping sector in the following year.

So, what has the PWM done for these low-income workers?

Using data from the Occupational Wage Survey over the years 2008-2016, the analysis shows that the PWM was associated with basic wages being 11 per cent and 18 per cent higher in the cleaning and security sectors respectively.

However, gross wages increased somewhat later than basic wages, suggesting that, initially, employers might have reacted to the PWM by cutting the 13th month Annual Wage Supplement, other allowances, and overtime pay, but, over time, restored these towards the original levels.

In sum, as a unique kind of “minimum-wage” policy, the PWM has succeeded in raising wages without apparently reducing employment.”

So, after all the hoo-hah – what’s the bottom line? Well, the median basic salary of food court cleaners is still only $1,000, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) wages benchmarking tool.

In the same newspaper – there were five reports on so many discussions in Parliament the day before, about helping elderly workers:

… “GST hike, plight of elderly workers among issues as Budget debate kicks off

… “Call for panel to help older Singaporeans work longer

… “Better contracts for older workers

… “Adjusting foreign manpower mix

… “Review CPF contributions for older workers

All these “wayang” in Parliament and the media fail to address the crux of the matter – the pay of low-income elderly workers.

How many more years must it take before they get a decent wage?

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.