Salary increase

On 12 December 2016, National Trade Union Congress (NTUC) announced that cleaners will receive yearly salary increases from 2017 to 2019 for a total of S$200. Various government agencies like Ministry of Manpower, National Environment Agency and Workforce Singapore said the salary increase will benefit more than 40,000 resident cleaners employed by 1,200 cleaning businesses.

For an industry that faces high turnover rate due to the perceived unsustainable low wages, this is a good move by the government. According to NTUC, the median salary for full-time cleaners was S$1,100 and gross wages were S$1,200 in 2015. With such low salaries, it is hard to imagine how a cleaner can live a quality lifestyle in an expensive city like Singapore.

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For the longest time, our society has always downplayed the contribution of cleaners. The general perception is that due to the low skills required for their jobs, they don’t deserve a respectable level of salary or salary increases (if any) for that matter. But we seem to neglect the fact that cleaners play an important role in maintaining Singapore’s reputation as a clean and green city. We need them to do the dirty jobs of clearing rubbish chutes and cleaning toilets. If the salary is too low, how can the industry attract workers, especially Singaporeans, to do these dirty jobs?

To help cleaners obtain better salary increases, the government is trying hard to enhance the skill of a cleaner so that they can add value to their employers. To be frank, I don’t know how the government agencies are tackling this issue. Maybe cleaners are taught to use specialized equipment or techniques to clean toilets. Maybe they are taught additional hands-on skills that enable them to broaden their work-scope. But at the end of the day, the key message is that in order to enjoy better wages, you must have the niche skills that really add value not just to the organization, but for your company’s clients as well.

With retrenchments so prevalent nowadays, PMETs should constantly upgrade their skills to ensure their competencies remain relevant to the job market. One thing that most people overlook about technology is that it is a double-edged sword. While technology can enhance productivity and increase work efficiency, it can also reduce “human in the loop”. This means that more jobs will be made redundant as enterprise seeks to be less labor intensive through the introduction of technologies.

Due to this global trend, the government is trying hard to equip Singaporeans with skills to succeed in this new economy. While jobs will be lost, new ones will be created. Because of this, we need to have the mentality of unlearning, learning and re-learning to stay relevant. This is important as Singapore is a small country with no natural resources. Our viable route to survive is to attract foreign investments. To do so, we need to project to the world that Singaporeans have the right skills and knowledge to do the jobs.

Back to the topic of salary increase, which industry would give you the most attractive pay package in 2017? According to Mercer, salary increases are forecast to be higher in 2017 than 2016 for most countries in Asia-Pacific.

Those working in the life sciences and chemical sectors can expect to enjoy highest salary increases across the region. In the financial sector, the hiring rates will continue to decline due to the changing business models. High-performing talents in this industry can look forward to higher salary increases but bonus pay-outs will be reduced in light of increased regulatory scrutiny.

From the report, it is revealed that those employees with the right skills will continue to command high premiums in terms of salaries. In Singapore, the highest salary increase is forecast to be 4.1% in 2017. So if you got anything more than that, you are doing great.

The report also indicated that although there are concerns over the growth of global trade, companies remain cautious yet resilient in Asia-Pacific. The prospect in Asia-Pacific is seen as brighter, especially for MNCs, as compared to Europe and North America. Multinational companies will continue to face stiff competition in finding and retaining the right talent. So continue to grow yourself and make it difficult for your management not to give you attractive salary increase or reward you with that coveted promotion.

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5 thoughts on “Salary increase

  • December 21, 2016 at 4:40 am

    A difficult issue to dwell in. I have no qualms with cleaners getting more.

    Resident cleaners mean Singaporeans? The majority of our cleaners today are foreigners. To hike the pay of Singaporean cleaners to $1000+ who are older, more likely to be less hungry than the Bangla-cleaners and who will not work for more than 8 hours a day. The Bangladeshi cleaners get $450-500 a month, borrowed more than $10k to secure a cleaning job here, and who’s willing to work more than twelve hours a day. They are much younger, more versatile and willing to work harder.

    Should they get less?

    To pay them equal? how many of us are willing to pay our monthly conservancy 100% more to see such equity?

    I’m not taking sides but to open the eyes of moral simpletons who seems to have ready answers in life.

  • December 21, 2016 at 9:59 am

    unfortunately in addition to the cleaners not being very well paid many are badly treated by their employers . the treat of being made unemployed is a very heavy weapon in the hands of their employer as their skill level is so low .a person can only do their best every day and not everyone can have a bmw lifestyle .

  • December 21, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    Hi Fred,

    Thank you for your comments but the intention of writing this article is not to talk about the issue of foreign labours in Singapore.
    Rather, I am highlighting the plight of cleaners in general.


  • December 21, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Hi John,

    I can relate to your comments. Because my mother-in-law is currently a part-time cleaner and what you pointed out is 100% truth.


  • December 23, 2016 at 8:48 am

    I personally know a school cleaner who work in the same job for 6 years. Because of the outsourcing system adopted by all government agencies including schools, her pay each time her boss-contractor change hands, gets lower. Her pay was reduced 3 times. This outsourcing system impacted those daily paid initially, soon creeps up.

    Now, besides outsourcing, we have digitisation, AI, robotism and others. Scary.

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