Yet another year of negative real wage increase?

I refer to the article “Foreign workforce growth slows significantly, local hiring rises sharply” (Channel NewsAsia, Jan 31).

Real median income growth?

It states that “The median monthly income from work, including employer CPF contributions, of full-time employed citizens rose over the year by 5.8 per cent to S$3,248 in 2012, down from the growth of 6.3 per cent in 2011.

Balanced by lower inflation, the real median income growth was 1.2 per cent in 2012, compared with 1 per cent in 2011.”

Negative real income growth – minus 2%

However according to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Labour Force in Singapore 2012, the median gross monthly income (excluding employer CPF) of full-time employed residents only increased from $2.925 in 2011 to $3,000 in 2012. This means that the real income growth was minus 2 per cent.

So, we have yet another year of negative real income growth, as it was negative in 2008, 2009, 2011 and was only 0.5 per cent in 2010.

I think we may need to seriously examine our policies as to why we don’t seem to be able to be get out of this persistent trap of “negative real wage growth”?

Almost 0% real income growth last decade?

Since the “the real income growth (including employer CPF) at the 20th percentile over the decade was flat, and that for the median was only 1.3 per cent per annum, how much lower was the real income growth excluding employer CPF?

Foreign employment growth 19% higher than locals?

As to “Local employment growth rose by 59,200, substantially higher than the gains of 37,900 in 2011.

The growth in foreign employment eased to 70,400 in 2012, compared with 84,800 in 2011”, the growth in foreign employment is still 19 per cent more than locals.

Breakdown jobs to citizens & PRs?

Also, since the number of new permanent residents (PRs) and new citizens is now at about 30,000 and 20,000 respectively a year, and considering that the population white paper projects 30,000 PRs and up to 25,000 new citizens a year going forward, we need the breakdown of the jobs growth for locals into Singaporeans and PRs.

If we can give the breakdown of the unemployed into Singaporeans and PRs, why can’t we do the same for employment growth?

With regard to “the decline in unemployment was also seen among residents from 2.8 per cent to 2.6 per cent, and among citizens from 3 per cent to 2.9 per cent”, does it mean that most of the unemployed are citizens relative to PRs?

Increase in discouraged workers?

“Some 9,600 or 0.5% of the resident labour force (inclusive of discouraged workers) were discouraged from seeking work in 2012, up from 8,600 or 0.4% in 2011.”

“The proportion of unemployed residents who had been looking for work for at least 25 weeks edged up from 19% in June 2011 to 20% in June 2012. The share of resident job seekers with unemployment duration of 15 to 24 weeks also rose from 13% to 14%.”

Older workers unemployed longer?

“Once out of work, mature residents tend to experience longer unemployment spells.  The median duration of unemployment was 12 weeks for resident job seekers aged 50 & over and 11 weeks for those in their 40s, compared with 4 weeks for youths aged 15 to 24 and 6 weeks for those aged 25 to 29.”

Inactive mostly 60 & over?

“Around four in ten (38%) economically inactive residents in June 2012 were aged 60 & over, while another three in ten (32%) were youths aged 15 to 24.  The proportion of those aged 60 & over (39%) and youths (46%) among economically inactive males was even higher, as the vast majority of prime-working age men participated in the labour market reflecting their traditional role as the main breadwinner within the household.”

More intend to work, but … ?

“Some 161,300 or 15.2% of economically inactive residents in 2012 intended to look for a job within the next two years, up from 153,600 or 14.4% in 2011.”

Degree holders highest incidence of intending to work?

Degree holders had the highest incidence at 36.7 per cent of resident potential entrants into the work force.

79,000 unemployed?

“The non-seasonally adjusted resident unemployment rate and number decreased over the year from 3.9% or 81,200 to 3.7% or 79,000.”

Service & Sales workers highest unemployment and vacancies?

Service and Sales workers continue to have the highest unemployment rate at 5.6 per cent, despite also having the highest vacancies rate.

Foreigners job growth much higher than locals?

The growth rate of non-residents in the total labour force from 2011 to 2012 was 7.4 per cent, which is still much higher than that for residents at 1.9 per cent.

Lower PMET jobs growth?

“Resident non-PMET employment increased by 2.7% in 2012, faster than the growth of 1.5% for PMETs.  Consequently, the PMET share of resident employment dipped from 52.2% in 2011 to 51.9% in 2012”, This may be significantly different from the annualised change from 2007 to 2012, which was 3.9 per cent for PMETs and 1.2 per cent for non-PMETs. – Does this mean that most of the jobs created now were non-PMET jobs, compared to the past?

Older get lower-pay jobs?

In respect of “Residents employed in lower-skilled jobs tended to be older, reflecting their weaker educational profile relative to those younger.  Six in ten (61%) residents working as production & transport operators, cleaners & labourers in 2012 were aged 50 & over, compared with around three in ten (32%) among clerical, sales & service workers and two in ten (22%) for PMETs.    The proportion of older workers was  the  highest among cleaners, labourers & related workers, where close to seven in ten (68%) employed residents were aged 50 & over.    As a result, the median age of residents in this occupational group was 55 years, much higher than 42 years in the entire resident workforce” – Does  this mean that there may be age discrimination in wages, particularly against lower-income workers?

The above may also be reinforced by “Nearly half of the employed residents in administrative & support services (49%), accommodation & food services (46%) and transportation & storage (44%) in 2012 were aged 50 & over, reflecting the higher  reliance  of non-PMETs in these industries”.  – Does this indicate that most elderly workers end up in lower-income jobs in the lower-income sectors?

Older harder to stay in job?

“The proportion of resident employees who had been in their current job for at least a decade generally rose with age, reaching a high of 47% for those in their 50s before falling to 41% for those aged 60 & over.” – Does this mean that older workers may be finding it harder to keep their jobs?

Multiple job holders increase?

“Only a small minority or 2.2% (43,200) of employed residents held two or more jobs in 2012, though this increased from 1.8% in 2010 and 1.4% in 2002.14  Multiple job-holding was more prevalent among employed residents in their 40s (2.6%) and 50s (2.7%).” – Does this mean that more people had to take on multiple jobs in order to make ends meet?

Contract workers increase?

“The pool of contract workers increased slightly, amid more cautious business sentiments.  192,200 or 11.5% of resident employees were on term contracts in 2012, up slightly from 188,400 or 11.4% in 2011.”

3 in 10 worked more than 48 hours a week?

“Of every ten employed residents in 2012, six  had usual weekly hours ranging from 35 to 48 hours.  Another three typically  worked  long hours exceeding 48 hours a week, while the remaining one or 9.8%  usually  worked less than 35 hours a week.2.24.”

Older workers worked longer hours?

“Workers in their 40s and 50s were more likely to work long hours.  Around one in three (34% and 32% respectively) usually clocked more than 48 hours per week. Their average (mean) usual hours worked for full-timers at 48.8 and 49.4 hours respectively were also higher than the norm of 48.2 hours per week.”

Degree holders and below-secondary worked longer hours?

Proportionately more residents at the two ends of the education spectrum namely degree holders (33%) and residents with below-secondary qualifications (32%) had usual hours exceeding 48 hours a week than those in the other education groups.  In terms of average (mean) usual hours for full-timers, the below-secondary educated residents worked the longest at 50.4 hours per week while the degree holders had below-average hours worked at 47.5 hours per week.”

Less went for training?

“The average (mean) duration of training was shorter at 14 days per trainee in 2012 compared with 16 days in 2011. Consequently, the training intensity, derived by multiplying the average (mean) training days per trainee with the training participation rate, declined from 4.3 to 4.0 training days per adult in 2012.”

Less training for unemployed?

“The training participation rate declined for the small pool of unemployed from 16% to 14%.  Coupled with the decline in their average training duration, the training intensity for the unemployed fell from 9.1 days per adult in 2011 to 3.9 days per adult in 2012.”

Few had pay rise after training?

“A smaller proportion of trainees indicated that training helped in their career advancement.  Close to three in ten felt that  the  training gave them more job satisfaction (29%) and additional/new job responsibilities (27%).  Considering that the impact of training on pay and promotion may not be immediate, only 13% reported receiving a pay rise and 8.7% a promotion that was related to the training that they undertook in the year.”

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.