Inequality: Ministers’ pay 67x low-pay civil servants’?


Is the pay gap between junior Ministers and junior civil servants as much as 67 times?  

I refer to the article “Civil servants to get half-month mid-year bonus, one-off payments of $300 to $500″ (Straits Times, Jun 20).

It states that “The last time civil servants got a one-off payment was in 2015, when each of them received $500 to mark Singapore’s 50th birthday.

About 1,450 civil servants in Grades IV and V of the Operations Support Scheme will get the higher one-off payment of $500. These officers typically provide basic office administrative support functions.”

As to “On top of annual increments, the 540 or so Grade V officers, who earn $1,250 to $1,581 a month, will get a built-in wage increase of $20 in their monthly salary” – does it mean that after the typical 20 per cent employee’s CPF contribution – the take-home pay of civil servants may be as low as $1,008 ($1,250 less 20%)?

Isn’t this rather low?

With regard to “The other 60,000 or so employees in the public sector could receive the same payment, as statutory boards and other government agencies typically take their cue from the civil service” – how many in total are there of such low-salary civil servants in the entire public sector?

In respect of “The above mid-year payments signal the Government’s continued commitment to support our lower-wage civil servants,” said the PSD” – there has been a great deal of rhetoric and debate recently, about “inequality” in Singapore.

So, in this connection, is it fair for the gap between our Ministers’ pay to lower-income public servants, to be the highest in the world?

In this connection, we did an analysis in 2014 (updated now in 2018) – which is shown below.

Increased 12 times only?

As we understand that a Division IV officer’s salary in 1973 was about $100 plus – does it mean that their salary only increased by about 12 times in the last 45 years?

In contrast, Ministers’ salaries increased by an average of about 34 times, whereas the lowest rung of civil servants may only have increased by about 12 times.

Is there any country in the world whereby a junior Minister’s (MR4) pay a day, at an average of $3,014 ($1,100,000 divided by 365 days) is 2.4 times that of a junior civil servant’s monthly pay ($1,250)? For a MR1 Minister, it may be an average of 3.9 times ($1,760,000 divided by 365 divided by $1,250) more.

If we divide a MR4 Minister’s starting annual salary of $1,100,000 by a junior civil servant’s starting annual salary of $16,250 ($1,250 x 13 months) – does it mean that the ratio of a Minister to civil servant’s salary may be about 67 times ($1,100,000 divided by $16,250)?

For those readers who may have an interest in the history of Ministerial pay in Singapore –

In 1973, a Minister’s annual salary was about $58,500 ( monthly salary of $4,500 x 13 months assuming 1 month’s bonus). (see the document below dated 20 March 1973)

salary '73

Minister’s pay in 1973 – $32,500

Similarly, a Minister of State’s salary was $32,500 ($2,500 a month)

Now – starting at $1,100,000?

Fast forward to now, an entry grade MR4 Minister’s pay  is an average of $1,100,000 (2017 White Paper).

Increased 34 times?

For a MR4 Minister like a Minister of State, from $32,500 in 1973 to say $1,100,000 now, is about 34 times.

Please note that “Annual Salaries are based on the assumption of an AVC of 1 month, good individual performance and targets for the National Bonus indicators being met. The annual salaries comprise fixed pay of 13 months (monthly salary and 13th month bonus) and variable pay of 7 months (1 month AVC, 3 months Performance Bonus and 3 months National Bonus)”.

Dear readers – did you or do you know of many Singaporeans who were working in the 1970s – who had their pay increased by about 34 times?

Perhaps like in The Animal Farm – some animals may be (much) more equal than others!

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.