Low-wage earners' pay stagnated over last decade: MOM

The bottom 20 per cent of working Singaporeans saw their pay stagnate over the last 10 years, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Though their nominal income rose to $1,400 in 2010, $200 more than in 2001, real income only rose by 0.3 per cent over the decade.

The figures, however, have not included various government transfers and schemes, which further raises overall income received from work by low-wage workers, said the ministry in the report.

Real median income for Singaporeans in the middle was found to have grown by 11per cent over the decade, from $2,000 in 2001 to $2,588 in 2010.

The report also explored employment rates.

It said the employment rate of Singapore citizens aged 25 to 26 rose to 77.0 per cent in 2010, 3.3 per cent higher than in 2001. Unemployment rate fell to pre-recessionary levels from 4.5 per cent in 2009 to 3.1 per cent in June 2011.

A seasonally adjusted 55,000 citizens were unemployed in June 2011, down from an average of 75,700 in 2009.

The report said nearly 8 in 10 citizens aged 25 to 64 are employed, making Singapore's employment rates one of the highest internationally.

Singaporeans are better qualified today, the report found.

About 23 per cent of citizens employed in 2010 were degree holders, up from 14 per cent in 2001. Including those with diploma and professional qualifications, the share was 41 per cent compared to 28 per cent in 2001.

Separately, the ministry, on Tuesday, also outlined its plans in its addendum to President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s address during the opening of Singapore’s 12th Parliament.

One objective is to ensure older and low-wage workers are able to enjoy the country’s growth over the next 10 years.

Responding to feedback from unionists that workers need to save more for retirement, the government will review the Central Provident Fund (CPF) contribution rates of workers from age 50.

It will also review the Workfare Income Supplement scheme to better help workers stay employed and earn a higher income, reported The Straits Times.

The addendum, issued by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Manpower Tharman Shanmugaratnam, said that it is shifting to quality rather than increases in the workforce as the basis of growth in Singapore.

“Helping our more vulnerable workers contribute to and share Singapore’s progress will remain a key priority,” Tharman was quoted as saying. “We will take further measures to help them upgrade, secure good jobs, and achieve higher incomes."

MOM also wants to find balance in Singapore's manpower policies and ensure Singaporeans have ample opportunities to acquire better skills and compete globally. Other plans include encouraging responsible outsourcing and promoting life-long leaning.