Photo of elderly Singaporean with Lee Hsien Loong portrait

Singapore’s National Wage Council (NWC) yesterday (May 31) urged employers to give low-income workers earning below S$1,300 to give a S$50 pay raise. The Singapore government also called for employers to pay a S$300 bonus if the company achieved “productivity improvements”.

The pay raise and bonus recommendation is not mandated by law, and as such most companies would not bother themselves increasing their manpower costs. According to NWC, employers are not raising wages because it is the “market rate”. The “market rate” is undisclosed but it is either lower or close to the government’s recommendation of S$1,200. Other employers blamed the government for awarding tenders based off the cheapest quotation, resulting in cut-throat competition over government tenders.

State media Straits Times put an estimate of 150,000 on the number of Singaporeans working as low-income workers. The low income are usually the elderly who work as cleaners and security guards. According to the latest salary report, Singapore bosses earn 75 times over the lowest paid workers. Due to an absence of Minimum Wage and employment protection, low income workers saw their salaries stagnate over the past 20 years, while competing with cheap foreign labour.

Singapore have an acute poverty problem among the elderly, with more than half working past the official retirement age of 67. The poverty problem has worsened in recent years due to CPF rules mandating a Minimum Sum of S$181,000 and with payout as low as S$250 a month. The Singapore government refused to set a poverty line so it can save on low income assistance.