Photo of elderly with Lee Hsien Loong taken at Toa Payoh from States Times Review

Singapore’s notorious employment exploitation has reached another milestone again – based in statistics from the Ministry of Manpower, Singaporeans clocked 2,371.2 hours in 2016, the longest hours in the world. This number higher than Taiwan’s 2,163 hours, Japan’s 1,735 hours and South Korea’s 2,193 hours.

Mainstream media readers however could take comfort that the total hours have fallen 18.2 hours, as 2015 registered a 2,389.4 hours figure.

Aside from having the longest hours, Singaporeans are also among the oldest workers in Singapore. The drastic employment situation is created by low salaries due to a lack of Minimum Wage, and high cost of living in the country which ranks 4th in the Mercer’s survey conducted in June 2016.

Another major factor behind long working hours is because of the lack of basic international employment rights in Singapore, where an employee who is paid at “management” and “executive” level do not get paid overtime. However, such “managers” earn as low as S$2,400 and most engineers in Singapore fall under the category of “executive”.

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the chief culprits behind the harrowing working hours figures, and Singapore SMEs are infamously known as “black companies” equivalent (ブラック企業, burakku kigyou) in Japan which overworks its workers and refuse to pay overtime.

Governments of South Korea and Japan have been implementing new policies to reducing working hours including mandatory annual leave taking. In Japan, death from work, known as かろうし/過労死 (karoushi), is common and a recent suicide of a 24-year-old lady from overworking in October 2016 led to a public outrage demanding companies to cut overtime hours.

In Singapore, the situation is bleaker than Japan’s. In July 2016, an 80-year-old cleaner worked to his death. His heart stopped while resting at a table in the coffeeshop he was working.

Read: 80 year old Singaporean cleaner died working

Read: 2012 News: 80 year old Singaporean dishwasher died at workplace’s toilet

Many Singaporeans also worked to their death due to accidents, and they are mostly elderly poor who could not afford to retire in Singapore.

Read: Elderly poor cleaner slipped and died during work

Elderly Singaporeans who cannot find a job ended up picking cardboard or newspapers earning a few dollars a day, and those who could not stand the hardship, commit suicide.

Read: Elderly Singaporean cleaner burn himself to death due to unemployment

Read: Elderly cardboard collector earns S$3 a day in Singapore

The Singapore government is however indifferent to these deaths, with Ministers like Tan Chuan Jin and Koh Poh Koon claiming elderly who work are doing so to exercise and “protect the environment”. Even the likely Prime Minister successor, Minister Chan Chun Sing, refused to set a poverty line because the poverty statistic may scare foreign investments away.