In his speech at the NTUC National Delegates Conference last evening (Oct 26), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Singapore is facing competition from both developing and developed countries and then added that for example, Japan has a lower starting salaries for their graduates compared to Singapore.

However, PM Lee has told only a half-truth as he had only compared salaries in absolute dollars without regard for cost of living and currency movements. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Singapore ranked 1st while Tokyo ranked 11th in the most expensive cities index.

Another convenient point left out is the equality of wages between graduates and non-graduates. In Japan, non-graduates earn 21.8% lower than their graduate counterparts. There is no statistics for non-graduates salaries in Singapore but more than 26% earn less than S$1,500 a month or more than 40% lower than non-graduates. The minimum wage for Japan workers is S$9 while Singapore’s unofficial minimum wage is only S$6.30 (S$1,000 for cleaners according to the Progressive Wage Model).

PM Lee Hsien Loong went on to lecture about free market and the need for globalisation. He finished his speech emphasizing the need for his Progressive Wage Model and NTUC.

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