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 …

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Ruthless paycut

Last week, my colleagues had a briefing session conducted by HR Director who announced that our variable specialist allowances would be removed with effect 1 January 2015.When he made the announcement and solicited for our feedback, there was at least 5 minutes of silence. Everyone was too shell-shocked to react.

Since last year, there were lingering rumors that HR was hatching some plans to adjust our variable specialist allowances but we thought that the most drastic move that they would resort would be to incorporate the variable component into our basic pay. We never expect in our wildest dream that they would remove all our allowances. For many of us, the amount is a huge amount and make up at least 30% of our pay. So obviously we were very unhappy. The only consolation news was that the organization would remove the allowances in three years phases, so that affected staff would have time to adjust their personal finances.

This variable adjustable component was indicated in our salary contracts but the HR director insisted that the term “variable” means that the amount can be zero as well, subjected to individual performance and market condition. When he made that kind of statement, all my trust in the organization immediately flushed down the drain. I guess he missed the point on the contractual agreement. Employee is the most important asset of every organization and having trust is important. So even if you don’t wish to honor your agreement, the minimum you should do is to engage your staff and explain clearly the rationale before you made such drastic move. If you can communicate effectively, then the staff would accept the pay cuts even if the quantum is substantial, like in this case. Otherwise, there would be mistrusts, anger, frustration and anxiety

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Civil Service Mid Year Bonuses

 Mid-Year Annual Variable Component of 0.5-month for all civil servantsIn addition:

Division IV officers to receive a wage increase of $70 in monthly salary, and
Division III officers to receive a wage increase of $30 in monthly salary, over and above their annual increment in 2014.

The Singapore economy grew by 4.9% on a year-on-year basis in the first quarter of 2014, unchanged from the growth recorded in the preceding quarter. Global economic growth is expected to improve in 2014, supported by continued recovery in the US and the Eurozone. The overall unemployment rate in Singapore remained low at 2.1% in March 2014.

Against this backdrop, the Government has decided to pay a mid-year Annual Variable Component (AVC) of 0.5-month.
The Government also supports the National Wages Council’s (NWC) recommendation to grant a built-in wage increase to raise the wages of low-wage workers. The Government will give a built-in wage increase to Division IV and III civil servants. This will be in addition to their annual increment in 2014.

Division IV civil servants will receive a built-in wage increase of $70 in their monthly salaries. This will benefit around 3,500 Division IV civil servants. Division III civil servants will receive a built-in wage increase of $30 in their monthly salaries. This will benefit around 5,500 Division III civil servants.

In all, the Civil Service’s NWC adjustments will benefit about 9,000 Division IV and III civil servants. This signals the Government’s continued commitment to help raise the salaries of lower-wage civil servants, in line with productivity growth and private sector salary benchmarks.

The mid-year AVC and the built-in wage increase for Division IV and III civil servants will be paid in July 2014.

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$3000 income is the new benchmark in Singapore?

Recently, both my wife and myself visited the new Bedok Mall developed by CapitaMalls Asia. We were quite impressed because it is the first full-fledged shopping mall in Bedok. The mall houses over 200 shops across three floors and net lettable area of 220,000 square feet, offering everyday essentials, lifestyle and fashion. The only major disappointment is the lack of cinema.

Anyway, back to the topic on income. We walked past EC House Express Cut and saw the job advertisement for a hairdresser. The advertisement stated the salary of $3000. It was not stated that the position required experienced applicants nor did it state for the preference of Singaporeans or foreign applicants. But I was quite surprised that a hairdresser in Singapore can command such high salary nowadays. After all, when I graduated in 2005, my starting salary was only $2600. So it seems to me that the salary gap between a skilled labor and white collar graduate is closing up rapidly in Singapore. The question now is: are Singapore workforce overpaid or is it a case of high inflation? In today’s context, can a degree really provide good income or open the door to opportunities?

I recall not too long ago, Sakae Sushi offered $3000 for a dishwasher. I am not too sure whether this offer is still open but it caused a lot of debate back then. On one end, the boss lamented the difficulty in filling that position because of the manual work and long hours. On the other end, many people questioned the wisdom of paying so much for an unskilled position. Both camp of debaters have their merits but I just wonder what is the salary baseline for Singapore employees nowadays. A check with the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on median gross median income revealed

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Civil Service Mid-year Payments

It is that time of the year in which civil servant collect mid-year bonus. For this year, it is heartening to note that the government accepted NWC’s recommendation to raise the wages of low-wage workers by at least $60. Not much though, but definitely a step in the right direction to help the low income group who struggle with rising living expenses. As the economy matures, there should be more schemes in placed to ensure that this group of Singaporeans are not left behind.

The Singapore economy grew by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2013, compared to 3.3% in the previous quarter. The Ministry of Trade and Industry forecasts GDP growth of 1% to 3% for 2013. The global economy is expected to improve gradually this year with modest growth in the US and moderate growth in Asia supported by healthy domestic demand, although the Eurozone is expected to remain in recession. Risks to the global growth outlook remain, such as a potential flare-up of the Eurozone debt crisis and fiscal uncertainties in the US. The overall unemployment rate in Singapore remained low at 1.9% in Mar 2013.

Civil service

Against this backdrop, the Government has decided to pay a mid-year Annual Variable Component (AVC) of 0.4-month.

The Government also supports the National Wages Council’s (NWC) recommendation to grant a built-in wage increase of at least $60 to raise the wages of low-wage workers earning up to $1,000 per month. The Government will give a built-in wage increase to Division IV and III civil servants. This will be in addition to their annual increment in 2013.

Division IV civil servants will receive an additional wage increase of $70 per month. This will benefit around 3,600 Division IV civil servants. Division III civil servants will receive an additional wage increase of $40

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Year end bonuses

It is that time of the year when salaried workers collect their year end bonuses. A couple of weeks ago, the government had also declared 13th month and 0.70 month variable bonuses for all civil servants. With the world economy still in the doldrums, I believe most Singapore workers’ year end bonuses would be modest, in view of anticipated moderated growth for Singapore economy.

This year will be the 7th time I am collecting year-end bonuses. I will be receiving 2.5 months of bonuses, excluding 13th month. The amount is not big, but substantial enough for me to settle my renovation and insurance loans. I also intend to set aside some money for some investments and my baby’s endowment plan. I targeted to settle my car loan by next year-end, using next year’s bonuses. With that, I would only need to worry about my housing loan.

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It is important for me to settle these loans as soon as possible as I am currently the house hold sole breadwinner. For those in the same situation as me, you would understand the pressure I am facing. On looking back, this period marks an important milestone for me as I embark on my wealth journey toward financial freedom. It has not been an easy ride but I am glad to have overcome this challenging chapter of my life.

Most Singaporeans had already made plans on how they are going to use their bonuses. Some planned to go for overseas holiday while others planned to buy big-ticket items like car or house. My advice for those who had just started out working is to exercise financial prudent and use your bonuses to pay off your study or any other loans. The interest incurred, especially for credit cards. can be scary if you keep rolling

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Higher Starting Salaries for Fresh Graduates

A recent survey released by Hay Group last week revealed that fresh graduates are drawing higher starting salaries compared to 2011. Those without Honors drew S$2, 678 while those with second upper Honors and higher drew S$2, 766 and S$2, 882 respectively. It also revealed that those working in the engineering sector drew the highest average salaries of $2,777 without honors. Jobs in research & development and merchandise operations ranked second and third, with the graduates earning S$2, 764 and S$ 2, 742 a month, respectively.

I am actually quite surprised by the survey as I always assumed that those working in the finance sector are usually paid well and would be among earn highest earners. But the results of the survey showed otherwise.

salaries

Based on the results, I think engineers are still in demand and would still command respectable starting salaries. I am heartened by this as my degree is engineering and I hold an engineering job. I would like to think that my engineering career can still last for another 10 -15 years, unless I decided to do a career switch or switch to entrepreneurship.

Another interesting fact is that the starting salaries for non-honors engineering graduates are quite high (at $2,777). I got an engineering degree with honors in 2005 but my starting salary was $2600. Even if you factor in inflation, the starting salaries seem quite high for a non-honors graduate. So I think this reflect the strong demand in engineering graduates in Singapore.

Yesterday, Minister for National Development cautioned Singaporeans to be prudent in buying properties and not be induced by 50 year housing loan (offered by UOB).

He mentioned that fresh graduates should be realistic with their incomes and that for their first properties, they should not buy a 5 room or bigger flats …

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