The alternative news in 1 day? (part 60) – Age discrimination and negative wage growth last 12 years?

I refer to the article “Balance between local and foreign workers a “tricky issue”: Tan Chuan-Jin” (Straits Times, Feb 16).

It states that “His priority is to look after Singaporeans, he said, but the balance between local and foreign workers is a “tricky issue” and Singapore cannot shut its doors to foreigners.

“If we swing too far the other way… some of these companies might find it better off to operate somewhere else,” he said, adding that it will then lead to job losses for locals.”

What are the implications of our liberal foreign labour policies?

In this connection, I looked at the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Report on Wages in Singapore 2009, but was unable to find the Median Monthly Gross Wage of all workers (all ages) for the 8 occupational categories in 2000.

What I was able to find was the Median Monthly Gross Wage of workers aged 35 – 39 in both graphical and narrative form.

I have tabulated the statistics with the latest 2012 MOM Occupational Wages Benchmarking Tool below.

Median Monthly Gross Wages  2000 ($)  2012 ($)  Increase (%)  Real Increase p.a.(%)

Cleaners, Labourers & Related Workers 1,500       1,000    – 33.3  -7.8

Service & Sales Workers                             2,100        1,943      -7.5   -3.73

Associate Professionals & Technicians    2,671       3,183     19.2  -0.86

Clerical Support Workers                           1,877        2,097     11.7  -1.58

Craftsmen & Related Trades Workers     2,052       2,400     17.0  -1.07

Managers                                                       5,370       7,000     30.4   0.11

Professionals                                                 4,250       4,797      12.9   -1.46

Plant & Machine Operators                        1,850       2,303      24.5  -0.39

(Note: The above were computed assuming an estimated inflation of about 29.1% from 2000 (CPI 87.6) 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.

It is not an apple-to-apple comparison as I am comparing the 2000 statistics for age 35 – 39 (because as stated above I could not find the “all ages” statistics in the report) against the 2012 statistics for all ages.

Most of the occupations indicate high age discrimination as wages decline with age for the same jobs’ category – I also believe that “wage age” discrimination was less so in 2000 compared to 2012)

Negative real wage growth for 7 of 8 job categories & near 0 for 1 of 8 – indicative of age discrimination?

Does the above mean that the real median gross wage  growth was negative in the last 12 years or so, ranging from -0.39 to -7.8% per annum (comparing age 35 – 39 wage statistics in 2000 against “all ages” wage statistics in 2012), for 7 of the 8 job categories; and only grew by 0.11% per annum for 1 of the 8 categories (Managers)?

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 median gross wages, and age discrimination.

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.