100,000 individuals in Singapore earn below $1000


Who is this person and why do they remain low-wage earners


Businesses pay more for individuals who have one or all of these attributes:

– Have the skills to meet their businesses goals,

– Able to fetch them more profit

– Is likeable and can work with their team


Having skills come from either education, or experience. In most industries however, a person does require a certain amount of education to acquire analytical, organisational or technical ability.


Once upon a time, the educational system of Singapore was poor. Trapped in poverty, some either could not afford to study, nor find the time to do so. In advanced ages today, these unfortunate few remain trapped in a low-wage cage. As education, society and businesses become more complex, there is little chance they will keep up the rest of society.


Why can’t we just enforce companies to hire them and pay more?


We cannot do that because when a country has the freedom for people to make choices, businesses also must have equal freedom to make these choices. How would you feel if you were forced to hire an unproductive worker and made to pay more for it? And what would you do?


What can be done about these numbers?


A hundred thousand may seem like a large number to those unfamiliar with national figures. However, incomes at the bottom 20th percentile have risen by 11.5 percent since 2006 and as middle incomes rise, the number of low-wage earners shrink.


Improved education, opportunities and skills upgrade are efforts to plug the hole at the bottom. Economically active, resourceful and risk taking individuals will create a fertile employment landscape for the rest of society.


Artificial wage increases, minimum wage and universal welfare only serve as a feeble relief, propping up “feel good” feeling, but never having a real foundation to solve the problem at its core.


Work seems slow, when will we be able to see real action take place?


Salaries of bus drivers have increased by up to $500, attributed to union pressure. But unlike changing salaries for one or two companies, cleaners work for thousands of companies and work on a variety of contracts. You cannot legislate it either, because that will be taking away freedom from the employer. What we can do is to increase the pressure – requiring companies to be accredited before they can take on a job is one (although not the best), requiring employers to produce pay slips is another. How fast it is, will depend on how the rest of society will work with these initiatives.


How can I do more for low-wage workers?


Here are some things to think about:

– Would you as an employer be willing to voluntarily pay a good living wage to the unskilled?

– Would you as a consumer be willing to pay a little more if costs were to be passed to you?

– How can you persuade an unskilled friend to take up and learn new skills? As Bob Marley once said, we should “emancipate ourselves from mental slavery, non but ourselves can free our mind”

– Would you consider giving a small tip whenever you receive good service?


It is not an easy procedure, a government cannot merely will low-wage workers into a higher income group and it takes an entire society to accept and even be willing to pay more.



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