Negative real wage growth last 13 years?

Update on wage statistics?

Using the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) statistics cited in David Wan and Ong Chin Huat’s paper “Compensation systems in Singapore” (July/August 2002) and the MOM’s Occupational Wages Benchmarking Tool (Benchmark data reference period: 2012), the median monthly basic wages for the eight occupational categories in 1999 and 2012 were as follows:-

Median Monthly Basic Wages  1999 ($)  2012 ($)  Increase (%)  Real Increase p.a.(%)

Cleaners, Labourers & Related Workers 1,015       1,000    – 1.5  -2.23

Service & Sales Workers                             1,175        1,391      18.4   -0.78

Associate Professionals & Technicians    2,210       2,801     26.7  -0.25

Clerical Support Workers                           1,515        1,920     26.7  -0.25

Craftsmen & Related Trades Workers     1,500       1,880     25.3  -0.34

Managers                                                       5,099       6,800     33.4   0.15

Professionals                                                 3,350       4,595      37.2   0.37

Plant & Machine Operators                        1,108       1,600      44.4  0.78

(Note: The above were computed assuming an estimated inflation of 30.9% from 1999 (CPI 86.4) to 2012 (CPI 113,1). I believe the Department of Statistics’ inflation data is for the full year, whereas the wages data is for the mid-year in June)

Negative real wage growth for 5 of 8 job categories & near 0 for 3 of 8?

Does the above mean that the real median basic wage  growth was negative in the last 13 years or so, for 5 of the 8 job categories; and only grew by 0.15 to 0.78% per annum for the other 3 of the 8 categories?

Liberal foreign labour policies?

To what extent has our liberal foreign labour policies contributed to the above?

The labour movement and the tripartite movement may need to do more to prevent the continuing erosion of workers’ real wages.

In this connection, Singaporean workers may need to be concerned about their “right to work for a fair wage” (Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Simplified Version) (UDHR)).

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.