Singapore needs minimum wage? Think twice, you may not benefit from it.

 

I often get asked: “Do you have minimum wages in Japan?

And when I reply “Yes”, the remark that follows is: “That’s great! That is what Singapore really needs!”

I hear this quite often but hey, do you really know what you are wishing for? In a lot of countries, having minimum wages do not make your life easier. In fact, you might suffer more when it happens.

Let me talk about my hometown, Hokkaido. (Different prefecture has different minimum wages in Japan) Our minimum wage per hour is 734 JPY/hour, which is about 9 SGD/hour. And in some dangerous industries like construction and manufacturing, it’s even 50-100 JPY higher. Sounds not bad, right?

If your employer pays you less than this, they get serious punishment.

This is the kind of money you earn if you work in restaurants, retail outlets, call centers and administration offices. Workers’ law says you cannot make your employees work more than 40 hours per week, therefore you will make around 29,360 JPY/week if you work full time. It’s about 127,716 JPY (=1583 SGD)/month.

Here comes the interesting part: Minimum wage pays a lot less than “Social Security Income” (Japan’s welfare payout) you can get from the government (when you cannot find a job or not in the condition to work).

According to our law, monthly Social Security Income is calculated according to “the minimum standard to sustain your life”. Now, Social Security isn’t a breeze. You cannot use air-conditioning during the summer (I have learnt of a beneficiary who died because of this rule) and sometimes government refuses to pay you because you had 4kg of extra rice in the kitchen.

Do you get the idea of how “minimum” the minimum standard is for Social Security Income? Yeah, it’s really minimum.

So how much can someone receive from Social security income in Sapporo (capital city of Hokkaido)? These are some examples:

Single (age of 68):

80,820 JPY (=1,002SGD)/ month + subsidies on your rental

 

Couple (age of 68, 65):

121,940 JPY (=1,511SGD)/month + subsidies on your rental

 

Family of 3(age of 33, 29, 4) :

175,170 JPY (=2,171SGD) /month + subsidies on your rental

 

Single mother(age of 30) with 2 kids (4, 2):

193,900 JPY (=2,403SGD) /month  + subsidies on your rental

 

Do you see? Our minimum wage is lesser than this Social Security Income! And Social Security is supposed to keep you alive and not to starve yourself.

Does it sound silly if I ask if you’d rather work and get less money or just be unemployed and apply for Social security income?

Until last year, this conflict was seen in 11 prefectures in Japan. After the efforts of unions and activists, they raised the minimum wages for 15 JPY/hour average, so only Hokkaido has this loop-hole now. But still, this figure does not prevent you from starving.

Why doesn’t minimum wages help people live a better life? The answer is very simple.

When you pay everyone “enough”, this sudden pay raise will drive the cost of end-products through the roof, and guess who else but YOU, the consumer, would have to bear this cost.

Prices rise, the low waged worker again can’t afford it: it is a vicious cycle. The benefits of minimum wage is then neutralized.

Look at Singapore. You know how little money foreign construction workers and domestic helpers earn, right? What do you think would happen if they start earning minimum wages alongside Singaporeans who are working behind desk and air-con?

Do you think you can still afford the buildings they build? Do you think you can still afford to hire a domestic helper?

And….. there’s one more thing you should know. When you have minimum wages in Singapore, your employer will be very happy to have the excuse to keep your wage to the minimum.

No matter how much you complain, your employer will smile at you and say something like this:

I am paying you more than minimum wages. So what’s your problem?

 

 

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About the author

Aya Imura

Aya Imura was born and breed in Japan, she attended high school in Utah, USA and furthered in Beijing University, China. Mid way through her studies she had to return home Japan when her family business went under. She became stewardess with Japan Railway Hokkaido before following her interest, and joined “Recruit Co.” one of the biggest publishing and marketing industry player in Japan as a copy-writer. She won several copy writing awards including the prestigious East Japan Best Practice Award.

Aya Imura started building her business in marketing research upon arriving in Singapore and helped Japanese companies increase their awareness and market strategy for both local and S.E.A market. In early 2012, ninjagirls.sg was born with a few like-minded Japanese friends.

They made video blogs about fashion, food, tourism and anything fun under the sun (and even the moon)!

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2 Comments

  • I don’t understand your arguments against minimum wage.

    1) If minimum wage in Japan pays below the “minimum standard to sustain life”, then won’t no minimum wage pays even lower? I mean, if companies pay $9 because the minimum wage forces them to pay that much, then won’t they be paying less wages if there is no regulation to make them do so? (Funny that you thought companies will automatically pay higher wages if they are not forced to pay a minimum sum)

    2) We can always have regulations that mandate minimum sum for ONLY locals. That will excludes all domestic workers and construction workers from enjoying it, thereby solving this problem that you raised.

    3) Singapore does not have Social Security. Without minimum sum, what is going to happen to those who do not have minimal money to sustain life?

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