Challenge for S’pore workers to change with times

I refer to the article “Challenge for S’pore workers to change with times” (Sunday Times, Feb 7).

It states that “An elderly Hungarian housekeeper was very blunt about why he sought work outside Hungary. He said that if he worked in his homeland, he would earn €350 (S$550) a month; on this cruise ship, he earns double that amount.”

Comparing a low-wage Romanian to a Singaporean?

Arguably, a Romanian who earns 350 euros (S$1,100) may be better off in a relatively lower cost of living country like Romania, than a a Singaporean who earns the same $1,100 as we have been ranked as the most expensive city in the world by The Economist.

In this connection, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s Singapore Yearbook 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.

Using GNI as indicator of income divide?

As to “How wide is the income gap between the countries where these lower-wage workers come from and better-off nations in Europe? Using World Bank data, it appears that Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany and France (not to mention Singapore) are doing much better than Spain and Greece, which, in turn, are doing better than Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria” – looking at the gross national income per capita (US$) may not be so appropriate, as Singapore’s gini (income inequality) is the highest of the 13 countries in the table.

S’pore’s US$55,150 vs Romania’s US$9,520?

So, Singapore’s number 2 ranking at US$55,150 compared to Romania’s bottom ranking at US$9,520, does not necessarily mean – particularly for lower-income Singaporeans that we are better off.

“No Singaporean is willing to work as a maid”?

With regard to “Here, despite the lack of cushy unemployment perks, Singaporeans are picky about jobs.

No Singaporean is willing to work as a maid in a private family. Almost no Singaporean is willing to do more physically challenging, unpleasant plus potentially dangerous jobs. Just a few are willing to work as foremen or supervisors at worksites” – no Singaporean can survive on a maid’s pay of about $500 and Singaporeans are competing literally with the whole world who can come here as tourists to look for jobs.

Liberal foreign labour policies? 

Thus depressing wages and perpetuating poor working conditions like permanent 12-hour shifts every day.

Leong Sze Hian

Check Also

Experts: Gov ‘Extremely Intelligent’ in Handling Covid-19, We Just Have to Get Used to It

It's easy for ministers and experts to say as they are not the ones who pay the price!