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Saturday January 13th 2018

Why we need minimum wage: Salary range of our rank and file workers

Much has being written about the pathetic salary  earns by our rank and  file workers. It is estimated that around 30% of our local workforce earns a salary that is below $1800.  While researching for this article, I could not locate any median salary range for the ordinary rank and file  jobs from  our MOM website. I have thus compiled my own  list here according to the salaries advertised  on the newspapers by employers looking for such staff.

Shockingly, when I did a salary comparison for similar jobs earned ten years ago, a majority of the salary range has stayed stagnant effectively reducing the disposable income  of the average worker in Singapore due to the inflation factor. If there is any salary adjustment for some jobs, its also marginal.  Most of such jobs are also performed by foreign workers automatically  pushing down salaries  as employers will not want to pay more since there is a cheaper alternative  from employing foreigners.

There is thus this need to push for a minmum wage policy for our low-waged workers or else they will continue to live on the edge. Minimum wage will also ensure that  more of our  local workers are employed as employers will not be able to capitalise on cheaper foreign imports for low end jobs. Note that the figures  quoted below are for starting salaries only and may fluctuate from employer to employer.

1. General drivers (delivery)

2000 – $1300 – $1500

2010 – $1300 – $1500

NB: Generally performed by local workers but foreigners are seen encroaching into this area now. Drivers are expected  to also load and unload goods at the customer places. A 6-day work week is the norm for such work. Not for the middle-aged and feeble.

2. Security officer (full time 8-hour shift)

2000 – $1000

2010 – $1300

NB: A job that is still predominantly performed by locals as foreigners are  barred from such work. Security officers need to clear a certification exam after a 5-day course. This industry can benefit from a more professional image and improved work benefits. Many security officers have no leave or medical benefits and only have two off days in a month. However, recently, pay has improved slightly for such jobs and has attracted some grads  who are affected by the recent downturn. Security officer who aspires to be security supervisor can take the supervisory courses which last around three months.

3. Waiters (full time)

2000 – $1200 – $1300

2010 – $1200 – $1300

NB: Job that is now performed mostly by foreigners (Filipinos, Chinese, Indians)  due to the low salary and the tough split-shift work system. An industry that is seen as low end and has no prospects. There is also no scope for advancement. Many leave this industry when they find better work elsewhere. Pay has remain flat for the past decade and does not seem like improving in the near future. A better pay structure and all-out drive to attract locals may spice up this foreigner-dominated industry.

4.  Clerk (junior)

2000 – $800

2010 – $900 – $1000

NB: Job that is still mostly carried out  by locals but Filipinos are now seen performing such  job scope. Starting pay has also remain flat all these years. Many junior clerks move on to become administrators after a few years of work experience and upgrading.

5.  Administrator

2000 – $1500

2010 – $1600

NB: Such work is still dominated by the locals for the time being but Filipinos with their strong command of English is slowly taking over such jobs. An industry that also suffers from a stagnanted pay struture that does no justice to these  office generals  who often become the office manager as well.

6. Cafe assistant (full time)

2000 – $1000

2010 – $1100

NB: Such work is split between the locals and foreigners. Of course, foreigners who  are younger and fitter, are the preferred choice of most employers. It  is  actually a no-brainer who the employer will employ if given a choice between the two. Pay has remain flat for the past decade and people job hop alot here. Has no job prospect and will soon be dominated by foreigners in the near future as employers continue to rely on cheap labour to run their  operation. Can benefit alot from mechanisation and better productivity.

7. Cleaner

2000 – $700

2010 – $700 – $800

NB: The cleaner job has not evolve much all these years as employers continue to rely on labour to do such work instead of mechanisation. Many uncles and aunties are shoved aside by the foreign cleaning brigade who is also seen as  faster and cheaper. Pay has remain flat for the past decade and workers become serial job hoppers in this industry. Employers have to rely on foreign workers to stem the high turnover among the local workers. An industry that badly needs an overhaul.

8. Factory operator

2000 – $1000 – $1200

2010 – $1000 – $1200

NB: Mainly perform by foreigners all this while due to the cost factor but many manufacturing companies have recently pull out of Singapore to countries like China. Malaysia and Vietnam due to the cheaper labour cost. Such work may not stay with us for very long. A sunset industry that we may want to forget.

9. Garage assistant (junior)

2000 – $1200

2010 – $1300

NB: An industry that is dominated by the oldies as our youngsters shun away from such jobs. Malaysians have also dominate such industry. Seen as a sunset industry.

10. Sales/retail  assistant

2000 – $1400

2010 – $1500

NB: An industry ithat s increasingly taken over by the Chinese foreigners as employers prefer younger workers but have refuse to increase the wages. The long working hours and weekend hours also deter many locals from such jobs. Pay can increase however due to the commission factor  tied to the quantity of products sold. Professionalism needs to be improved and with better pay locals may be attracted.  Most work  carried out by sales assistants abroad are performed by its own  local people. There is no reason to believe that this can’t be done in Singapore.

11. SBS bus driver

2000 – $1500

2010 – $1800

NB: At least 35% of our SBS bus drivers are foreigners hail mainly from Malaysia, China and India.  Recruitment drive for bus drivers is also very active abroad. The reasonably good pay has attracted some local workers in their 30s to try out this industry. Its still better than cab driving as you have a stable income and work benefits. SBS has done well to improve pay and work conditions to attract our locals into such jobs.

12. Mover

2000 – $1200

2010 – $1200

NB: An industry that is performed mainly by people looking for a part time job or in betwwen jobs. Pay  around $50  for a a hard day of back-breaking work. Not for the middle-aged and feeble. Another labour-intensive job that has not much  prospect.

13. Secretary (junior)

2000 – $1300

2010 – $1500

NB: Used to be a favourite job for school-leavers who have  just finish school.  A secretarial certificate is often required now for candidates keen on such job. Many junior secretaries move on to MNCs after acquiring a few years of work experience as the pay is higher and there are  better work benefits.

14. Accounts assistant

2000 – $1300

2010 – $1400

NB: A position that is a favourite for those who have passs out from the NTC accounting course. Reserved mainly for locals and there is always a demand for such positions. Pay can increase as the person chalks up work experience to become the senior accounts assistant. Starting pay has however remain flat all these years.

15. Cashier (NTUC, Cold Storage, etc)

2000 – $1100

2010 – $1200

NB: Another job that is reserved mainly for our local aunties. However, foreign Chinese workers are now seen manning cashiers in our supermarkets. A hot favourite for those who want to work part time for a few hours daily  and be a housewife as well. Pay will remain flat even after several years of work experience in this industry. A hot favourite job for retireess as well.

16.  Forklift driver

2000 – $1400

2010 – $1600

NB: Another industry that always has vacancies due to our solid warehousing and shipping industries. Need to go for a few weeks training and pass the forklift driver certificaton. An industry that has seen many foreigners coming in as many employers could not find local workers. Tough working environment as well. Pay can be good after  a few years of work experience.

17. Shipping clerk

2000 – $1600

2010 – $1700

NB: The shipping clerk is always thought of as someone who will work at least 10 hours in the office and will not see the light of day as she is forever cooped up in the office. Turnover is also high due to the stressful nature of the job. Pay can be high ($2500) after several years of work experience as there is a demand for such esteemed positions.

18. Nurse

2000 – $1000

2010 – $1200

NB: Many locals are attracted by such work even though the starting pay is relatively low. Junior nurses have to pass a one-year course sponsored by the government and have to sign a bond after that.  I feel that people who turn to such industry may be eyeing  immigration as countries such as Australia, Britain and USA have all along welcome immigrants with nursing experience. However, if the nurse decides to stay on, the salary at private hospitals is known to be much better. A experienced nurse can command  salary of around $2500 if she works in a private hospital. Those with a nursing degree can even be the nursing manager of a hospital commanding at least $4000 in salary.

Written by: Gilbert Goh

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared here on Sep 2010.

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Reader Feedback

5 Responses to “Why we need minimum wage: Salary range of our rank and file workers”

  1. Terence says:

    Sorry but have to point out some differences from my own experience.

    14. Accounts assistant – good friend of mine works as accounts assistant. She has ACCA (almost completed pro level). Her salary is $1.6k. What’s interesting is that her colleagues have SIM degrees and getting around same pay.

    18. Nurse. There are different levels of nurses, you can’t lump them together. Starting pay for nurse with a poly diploma is close to $2k, and abt $1.8k in 2000.

  2. The Independence says:

    it is a definite. without min. wage rules and left to market forces, the only direction is wage is going down for PT, file & rank, while cost of living is escalating.
    In Canada, workers are protected in such a way and more.

  3. Katrina says:

    What about some private companies? I have worked for small companies which give even lower base salary than 1.3k. I expected at least that amount and rejected those that were below. But unfortunately even the accepted one decided to have this amount too.
    This is depressing. Always request we must have experience, yea but the benefits should be reasonable too!

  4. jj says:

    NTUC, the worker union which formed & vows to protect workers’ benefits must also take care its staff.

    NTUC owns a lot enterprises & properties e.g. orchid bowl. I heard that the wage of the orchid bowl staff is only around $1100 – $1200 working long retail hours. The only thing they can look forward to are the AWS & bonus.

    Few middle aged staff & few chinese staff working in orchid bowl cos wage not attractive.

    NTUC is rich but they don’t pay the rank & file staffs well.

  5. Anglea Sickels says:

    I’m going to bookmark your site for the future. Keep up the fantastic work!.

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