Sunday, 4 December 2011

Singaporeans earning more

The Star By Cai Haoxiang

Wages are on the rise and so are the number of elderly employees – and the government hopes to cash in on the situation.

THE monthly salaries of Singapore workers went up this year, for the second year in a row.

Their median income - the mid-point in a range - was $2,633 (RM6,410.88) in June compared to $2,500 (RM6,087.05) a year ago, a 5.3% increase, led by economic growth and a tighter labour market.

The rise is even steeper when part-time workers are taken out of the equation, according to a Manpower Ministry report recently on the earnings and employment of residents, including permanent residents.

Wealthy lot: Fuelled by strong employment growth and curbs on the inflow of unskilled labour, the monthly income of Singaporeans has seen an encouraging rise this year. – The Straits Times
It shows full-time workers’ median income to be $2,925 (RM7,121.85) a month against $2,708 (RM6,593.49) last year - an 8% rise.

After taking into account projected inflation of about 5%, their real wages rose by an estimated 2.8%, said the ministry’s Singapore Workforce 2011 report.

But for all workers, including part-timers, the real wage increase was just 0.1%, said labour economist Dr Hui Weng Tat of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.

Noting the Government’s goal to raise real median incomes by 30% over 10 years, Dr Hui said it would require an average increase of 2.7% a year.

“Attention thus needs to be focused on improving the wages and work opportunities of the 194,700 part-time workers, as they are increasing in number, and half of them indicate they want to work longer hours,” he added.

The report also disclosed for the first time median income figures that include the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions of employers.

With CPF, the income of full-timers soared to $3,250 (RM7,913.16), which is $250 (RM608.70) more every month than last year.

Explaining the new move, a ministry spokesman said employer’s CPF contributions form a “significant part of compensation, and can be used for housing and health care”.

Hence, it would publish the figures yearly to give “a more complete picture of residents’ income growth”, she said.

The rise in income this year builds on last year’s increase, which was a turnaround from the decline caused by the 2008-09 recession.

Last year, the strong economic recovery lifted the monthly income by 3.3%, from $2,420 (RM5,892.26).

This year, the increase was fuelled largely by strong employment growth, especially in the services sector, coupled with curbs on the inflow of unskilled labour and stricter conditions on employing skilled foreign workers, said economists interviewed.

“Wages were pushed higher with the big projects like the Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa resorts needing a lot of labour, together with the tightening of foreign worker inflows like increased levies,” said National University of Singapore economist Shandre Thangavelu.

These moves pushed the employment rate to a new high of 78% for residents aged 25 to 64.

At the same time, immigration conditions were tightened, causing a decline in the number of permanent residents.

As a result, the resident labour force went up by just 1.6% to 2.08 million, compared to an annual average of 2.6% in the past 10 years.

On the other hand, more older residents and women are working this year. A record 61.2% of residents aged 55 to 64 are working, up from 59% a year ago.

Similarly, with women aged 25 to 54, the number employed rose to 73%, from 71.7% last year.

Labour leader Cham Hui Fong cheered the increases in these two groups, saying they show that efforts of unionists are paying off.

Said Cham, assistant secretary- general of NTUC: “Companies are now prepared to hire and spend time training these workers.”

Also, more government funds were available, she added, citing the Advantage scheme that helped companies redesign jobs for older workers.

Another is the Inclusive Growth Programme, which gives grants to companies to invest in high-tech equipment and redesign jobs for low-wage workers in return for raising their pay.

“We hope these schemes will continue because we need to build up the momentum,” said Cham.

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