Average Salary Guide In Singapore: What You Need To Know Before Comparing Your Salary To Others

Timothy Ho

In recent years, it has become increasingly common for people in Singapore to refer to salary guides as a way to determine how much they should be earning.

There are also websites in Singapore that ‘religiously’ republish these statistics, with little regards for what these statistics truly mean for the average working adult in Singapore looking for a job or hoping for a pay raise.

In this article, we will not only provide you with the information that you are looking for,but more importantly, what this means for you. This applies whether you are a fresh graduate looking for your first job, or an employee looking for a pay raise.

Mean VS Median: Understand The Difference

When looking at salary guides, one of the first things you need to understand is how “average” is calculated. Many people look at headline statistics, without understanding how these statistics are derived.

When it comes to salary guides, mean and median are the two most commonly used information in order to derive average.

Mean: The ‘mean’ is the average of the numbers. To calculate it: add up all the numbers, then divide it by how many numbers there are. Mean can be affected by outliers. For example, if four person earns $1,000 and the last person earns $11,000, the mean will be $3,000 (total of $15,000 divide by 5), even though 4 out of 5 individuals are earning below that.

Median: The ‘median’ is the middle value in the list of numbers, arranged in a sequential order. If 4 person earns $1,000 and 1 person earns $11,000, the middle value will be $1,000. Hence the median will be $1,000. Median is not affected by outliers.

The table below shows both the mean and median of starting salary of NUS graduates in 2017.

Source: MOE

We can observe that in most occasions, the mean is higher than the median. This is because in every cohort, there are always outliers who will pull the mean up.

Median, in this case, is likely to be a more accurate reflection of the true value of “average” that working adults should be looking at.

If You Don’t Even Have A Job, Salary Guides Are Essentially Meaningless

Most salary guides only take into consideration people who have a full-time job. They do not include individuals who are looking for a job, but cannot find one. If these individuals were included, both the mean and the median will be drastically lower.

Of course, it isn’t accurate to include individuals who do not have a job because you also end up having statistics which are (equally) meaningless.

Our point here is that if you are a job-seeker who has been actively (and unsuccessfully) trying to find a job for the past few months, looking at salary guides will be practically meaningless for you, and may even be determinantal if all it does is to increase your expectation, without giving you a better chance of securing a job.

If you do need help, there are organisations such as Workforce Singapore, which is under the Ministry of Manpower, that can help connect you to the right jobs which are available in the market. This takes into consideration your skills, experiences and of course, the availability of these jobs in the first place.

Think of them as both a head-hunter and a career coach that you can tap on. Their services are available for all Singaporeans.

If you need this career matching services from WSG, you can complete this form and someone from the organisation will contact you to follow up with an appointment.

Your Qualification & Experience

Graduate employment surveys get cited often since for the most part, graduates tend to have little or no working experiences and will rely on these surveys to tell them which sectors are hiring, and how much these sectors are paying.

The challenge here is that similar to most other surveys, there are survey biasness that are rarely accounted for. These include the fact that response rates among graduates are never 100% in graduate surveys. This is known as nonresponse bias.

Nonresponse bias is the bias that results when respondents and their answers are likely to be different from the people who do not respond to the survey. In this case, it’s possible that graduates who respond to the surveys are more likely to be employed as compared to those who do not respond.

These surveys also do not account for other factors such as those who are already on scholarship and who are secured employment upon graduating. For example, NIE graduates (i.e. MOE teachers) from NTU have a 100% employment rate. All these statistics skewed the graduate employment results.

Lastly, it’s also important to note that graduate employment surveys are meant exactly for whom they are created for – graduates. So besides the fact that these graduate surveys do not tell the full story, they tell you even lesser, or nothing at all, if you are not a graduate.

Read Also: 9 in 10 Graduates Find Employment Within 6 Months. But Here’s What The Statistics Isn’t Telling You

Salary Guides From Job Portals

Some individuals, particularly those who are already working and hoping to earn more, tend to rely on salary guides provided by job portals to help them determine if they are underpaid.

However, before you compare what you are earning to what salary guides published by job portals are telling you that you should earn, it’s important to consider some of the limitations of these guides.

The first thing you have to ask yourself is how accurate these numbers in the salary guides are in the first place. In many of these guides, you will read that they are only approximates with a sample size that is relatively small. People need to be aware that such guides tend to over-estimate salaries and should not be treated as gospel truth.

Also, salary guides published by job portals or head hunters act as marketing tools for the companies that produce them. What these guides act as is a way to bring in business for the company. And the business for recruitment agencies and job portals is to get people to switch jobs – that’s how they earn their money.

Lastly, most of these salary guides are based on oversimplified factors such as job title and perhaps years of experience, without any regard for the actual responsibilities, skills and experiences required for a candidate to fulfil the role.

For example, multinationals and boutique companies would both require staff to fulfil jobs that are given the same “title”, such as “Accounts Manager” or “Finance Manager”. However, the complexity of the roles vastly differ and hence, the salary payable as well.

So take any information that you read online with a pinch of salt. If a salary guide tells you that you should be earning $4,000 when your current salary is only $3,000, don’t just throw in your resignation letter to your boss or demand for a pay raise.

Ascertain for yourself how accurate this information really is, where is the source of the information and whether the statistics truly hold up once you look deeply into it.

Read Also: Why You Should Not Compare Your Pay To Salary Guides From Recruitment Firms And Job Portals

If You Are Expecting The “Average” Salary, You Probably Don’t Deserve It

Many people spend way too much time trying to find out what is the “average salary” that they should be earning. The problem however is that if you are an individual who is basing his decisions solely on these guides, then it’s fair to say that you are probably lacking in information and don’t deserve it.

A good employee who knows what he wants to do in his career, is also more likely to understand the job market, and whether or not he is able to find better opportunities that pays more elsewhere. If you are clueless about the job market out there, chances are that 1) You also have zero ideas on who would actually want to hire you, aside from your current employer and 2) How much they will be willing to pay for your services.

So base your decisions on actual empirical experiences that you have, rather than relying on statistics to tell you how much you should be earning because chances are, if you need some studies to tell you that you should be earning more, then it’s likely that you are one of those who may not deserve it in the first place.

Here’s another way of seeing this. Imagine if the salary guide is published and your current salary is actually higher than what the guide suggests. Would your boss or HR manager decide to decrease what they are currently paying you? Obviously not.

The reason they are paying you a higher salary is they know what you are worth. Likewise, if you are earning less than what the guide suggests, your first reaction would be to ascertain what is it that you could be doing more of, rather than to demand a higher pay.

Read Also: Why Singapore Graduates Expecting The “Average Starting Salary” Probably Don’t Deserve It

Latest Median Salary As At 2017

As at June 2017, statistics published by MOM showed that median salary earned in Singapore is $3,749. What this means is that 50% of the population earns less than this while the remaining 50% of the population earns more than this.

Once again, do note that any statistics published about salary do not include job seekers who have been trying to find employment, but who are unsuccessful.

If you are such an individual who is looking for a job but is unable to find one, Workforce Singapore can help connect you a to job you are looking for.

To qualify, you need to be a Singaporean.

To get started, you can make an appointment with Workforce Singapore here. Someone from the organisation will give you a call to arrange to meet up, and to link you up with the right companies and schemes that you are suitable for.

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