Oh no! Not another Model – to lift ‘lift’ workers?


This Progressive Wage Model thingy is talking cock lah!

I refer to the article “Professionalisation, wage ladder for lift technicians a long time coming” (Channel NewsAsia, Aug 7).

It states that “National Day message on Jul 31. Lift technicians will be the fourth group of workers to benefit from PWM which aims is to increase the salaries of workers through the enhancement of skills and improving productivity.

The progressive wage model has been made mandatory for workers in the cleaning, security and landscape sectors which are mostly outsourced services.


A survey by the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), showed that fresh NITEC graduates entering the lift industry earn a monthly salary of between S$1,200 and S$1,500.”

My friends said “Aiyah, all these NTUC (Never Trust Union Chief) always cock and bull one – now talking cock again lah

Oh no, not another progressive wage model (affectionately known as pay workers miserably) lah!

Just look at the PWM for cleaners lah – still getting only $1,100 basic pay is progressive meh!

And this $1,100 is including employee CPF hor!

After less the 20% – maybe only $800 plus hor!

This type of pay can survive in Singapore meh!

This ITE (also known as Its The End (if you go there)) also quite funny one –    the % of ITE Higher Nitec graduates in full-time job was only 41.8% in 2016 and for Nitec (Engineering) – it was only 33.6% hohoho!

The pay lagi torok – MOM Yearbook of Manpower Statistics 2015 say median gross monthly starting salary of ITE graduates (Higher Nitec (Engineering)) in full-time job was $1,600 in 2014

Then, the starting salary in 1999 was $1,500 – So, increase after 15 years only 6.7%

Inflation was 35% from 1999 to 2014 – so, real increase was -28% or -1.7% per year

Heh you all so lucky whilst we were talking drinking kopi – I surf internet on my phone – wa lau look what i found really very very tokong one leh!

I read to you all hor, but warning first ha – this one very very long one!

According to shit times – in 2000 – “the median gross wage for cleaners and labourers was $1,277.

Real wage fell 30% in 15 years?

After accounting for inflation for the last 15 years or so, I estimate that in year 2000 dollars (June 2000 CPI 74.371), the $1,200 median gross pay now of cleaners is equivalent to only about $896 in 2000 dollars. So, what this may mean is that the real pay of cleaners has declined by about 30 per cent in the last 15 years (June 2015 CPI 99.67) or so.

A decent pay for cleaners?

Since median gross wages grew by 12 per cent from 2012 to 2015, and were $1,200 in June 2015 – the take-home pay of cleaners after the maximum 20 per cent employee CPF contribution may only be about $960.

According to the article “Over 40,000 cleaners will see basic pay go up by $200 over next three years” (Straits Times, Dec 12, 2016) –

Some cleaners have to wait until July 2017?

“Cleaning businesses with new service contracts that take effect from July 1 next year must adopt the new recommendations for 2017.

Some cleaners have to wait until July 2018?

Meanwhile, those with existing service contracts that take effect before then will have until July 1, 2018 to pay their cleaners wages according to the recommendations.

Its first recommendation is a total increase of $200 to basic wages under the model by 2019. This should start with a $60 annual increase in 2017 and 2018, followed by a $80 raise in 2019.”

5.6% real increase in 3 years?

As to “Cleaners have seen their wages rise since 2012, when the model was first mooted. Median basic wages of full-time cleaners here grew by 9 per cent from 2012 to last year. It was $1,100 in June 2015. Median gross wages grew by 12 per cent from 2012 to last year, and were $1,200 in June 2015” – this works out to a full-time cleaners’ median basic wages’ real increase (after inflation) of only about 5.6 per cent in the three years, from June 2012 (CPI 96.407) to June 2015 (99.67).

65 cents a day real increase?

This means that the real increase per year was only about 1.9 per cent, or about $19 a month – about 65 cents a day.

Can you imagine getting an increment in pay of just 65 cents a day per year for three years?

Talking about $1,000 pay since 2008?

In this connection, we have been talking about paying cleaners $1,000 since 2008 – “Full-time cleaners now earn about $1,000 a month on average, compared to about $750 before the (Town Councils’ cleaners’) scheme was launched in 2008” (“Cleaners’ pay up $250 to $1,000: Congratulations?“).

So many schemes in the last 8 years?

In the last eight years or so, we have had so many schemes and initiatives to raise cleaners’ pay to $1,000 (see below).

– ““Progressive wage concept initiative to raise the wages of cleaners” (“Measure wage targets in hourly pay, not gross total“, Jun 20, 2012)

“Unprecedented move by a group of officials from unions, cleaning companies and the Government would raise the pay of cleaners by 23 per cent” (Oct 19, 2012)

“Contracts would only be awarded to cleaning companies awarded the Clean Mark Accreditation” (“Parliament: Replies that never answer the question?“, Nov 14, 2012)

“The National Trades Union Congress ( NTUC) has set a target to raise 10,000 cleaners’ monthly salary to at least $1,000 by 2015″ (“NTUC: Wages need to account for standard of living?“, Dec 20, 2012)”

All cleaners have to wait until 2020?

With regard to “those employed by the same business for at least 12 months will get an annual bonus, equivalent to two weeks of basic monthly pay, from 2020” – why do cleaners have to wait for another three years, in order to get an annual bonus of two weeks “from 2020”?

Hardly any real increase from 2020 to 2022?

In respect of “The TCC (Tripartite Cluster for Cleaners) also recommended a 3 per cent annual increase to wages from 2020 to 2022” – since I understand that historical inflation in Singapore is about 2.5 per cent – does it mean that cleaners may be getting hardly any real increase from 2020 to 2022?

Giving cleaners a reason to celebrate – for 6 years

According to the article “Giving cleaners a reason to celebrate – for six years” (Straits Times, Dec 13, 2016) –

Did not reach target after 3 years – short by $200? 

it would appear that the target set in 2012 – “those cleaning offices will get at least $1,000 a month in basic pay and those cleaning hawker centres will get $1,200 a month” – has not been reached after the three years from 2012 to 2015.

The $1,200 target for hawker centre cleaners is short by $200 ($1,200 – $1,000).

Alas, finally a new law?

“A new law that kicked in from September 2015 also made it compulsory for cleaning companies to implement the minimum wages.

Influx of foreign workers doing low-wage jobs depressed wages?

For 10 long years, between 2001 and 2010, the wages of cleaners had been depressed. This was the decade which saw an influx of foreign workers doing low-wage jobs, which, in turn, depressed wages, and cleaners were particularly vulnerable as they were mostly older, less-educated workers who did not have many other job options.

While income figures for cleaners were not officially released, it is clear they earned well below the lowest quintile of workers.”

20% of workers – $3.60 pay increase per year for 10 years!

As to “During that period, the nominal monthly income of the lowest quintile rose from $1,200 to $1,400. This increase worked out to real growth of only 0.3 per cent, almost flat, after adjusting for inflation” – it works out to only an increase of about $3.60 per year ($1,200 x 0.3%) for the 10 years.

How do you feel – now that you know that the bottom 20 per cent of Singaporean workers had a miserable real increase in income of only $3.60 a year for 10 years?

“The wage-hike plan can prevent a repeat of this wage depression.”

Problem with the “median”?

The problem with the subject and all the previous schemes to help raise cleaners’ pay may be that the median is the half-way point of the population of cleaners.

And it only refers to full-time employed cleaners.

What about part-time cleaners?

There are many part-time cleaners who earn as little as $250 a month, as highlighted by the part-time cleaner who had her holiday trip to Japan cancelled last year, because of the closure of the travel agency – who only earned about $250 a month.

Simple solution – minimum hourly wage?

Perhaps a possible simple solution – is to have a minimum basic wage of say $7 an hour, and for future target wage increase to be based on the hourly wage too, instead of on the median basic and gross monthly wage of different types (hawker, office, etc) of cleaners.

A $7 hourly wage would raise their basic monthly wage immediately to at least $1,335 ($7 x 44 hours x 4 weeks & 2 days) a month.

Wait until 2022 to get $1,312?

In this regard – the above suggestion of $1,335 is even more than the “$1,200 in 2019 and $1,312 in 2022 … in the committee’s plan”.

2012 target: $1,200 by 2015, now same $1,200 target by 2019?

By the way – since the target in 2012 for hawker centre cleaners was to achieve $1,200 by 2015 – why are we still talking about a new target now to achieve the same $1,200 in 2019?

1st world country – 3rd world labour policies? 

Why are we a so called first-world country that arguably, still continues to have third-world labour policies!

And when will lower-income Singaporeans get a decent pay – instead of a Labour Day news report about how great the progressive wage model has been in helping lower-income workers?”

I think we all lau ah pek need to sleep now hehe – sibei long article this one – sorry you all have to suffer listening to me reading it – pai sei hor!”

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.