I refer to the article “Training a way out of poverty” (Straits Times, Dec 19).

1st time that Govt release data on citizens getting financial aid

It states that “For the first time, the Government has released data on citizens who receive financial aid from the state.

To qualify for this support, an individual has to earn a per capita income of below $650.

How is it that a person could be working, and still not be making enough money to get by?

Social workers cite a number of reasons: Poor education and very low income, big families on a single income or medical conditions that allow very few hours of work. Indeed, almost 65 per cent of those receiving short- to medium-term assistance do not have N- or O-level qualifications.”

Why so many don’t make enough money to get by?

The answer to the question “How is it that a person could be working, and still not be making enough money to get by?” – may lie in the Ministry of Manpower’s SingaporeYearbook of Manpower Statistics 2015.

180,000 earn below $1,000 

There were 180,000 employed residents with gross monthly income from work (excluding employer CPF contribution) below $1,000 in June 2014.

415,800 earn below $1,500

There were 235,800 earning from $1,000 to $1,499 – i.e. a total of 415,800 (180,000 + 235,800) residents earning below $1,500.

627,600 earn below $2,000

There were 211,800 earning from $1,500 to $1,999 – i.e. a total of 627,600 (180,000 + 235,800 + 211,800) residents earning below $2,000.

Real basic wage growth 1.35%?

From the data in the report, I have computed estimates of the real growth in basic wages and total wages to be only about 1.35 and 1.9 per cent per annum, from 2004 to 2014.

To put these figures in perspective – a worker earning $1,000 10 years ago (in 2004) would have a real increase in his or her basic wage (excluding employer CPF contribution) and total wage (including employer CPF contribution) of only $144 ($14 per year) and $207 ($21 per year) respectively.

No breakdown of residents’ data into S’poreans

Since the data is for residents (Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs)) – the data for Singaporeans may be even worse.

“Upgrading” against foreign workers?

As to “the data highlights the need for workers, especially the less educated, to upgrade their skills and improve their chances of landing better jobs” – the statistics may continue to indicate that “upgrading” may be futile in the light of the huge influx of foreign workers to possibly an all-time high of about 39 per cent of the workforce, and liberal foreign labour policies that even allow tourists to come to Singapore to look for jobs.


Leong Sze Hian

A.S.S. Contributor

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