Like many of you, I read in the news that Teo Chee Hean announced in Parliament that some 2,200 lower waged civil servants will receive a $60 to $80 increase in their salaries from April.
But I’d like to ask: would $60 to $80 more actually be substantial? Is this enough for an elderly aunty to live life comfortably?
I can’t even pay my electricity bills with $80!
But here’s the thing: over the last 3 years, this is not their only pay raise. Since 2012, their wages have increased by $300 to $330 because of the schemes such as the Progressive Wage Model. The $60 to $80 increase from April is over and above all these raises. All this amounts to about 25% increase since 2012.
Shocking isn’t it?
Professor Lim Chong Yah must be giggling in his chair. He was the man who suggested the crazy idea of a “wage shock therapy”, but lest the good Prof be too excited, I don’t see this as an irresponsible wage shock (which could have sent the economy out of whack). The timing of increases and government sweeteners to employers make for much of the sustainability of all this increase. It is hardly a shock.
Upgrading of lower-wage workers
DPM Teo was responding to Labour Member of Parliament Ang Hin Kee’s question on the upgrading of lower-wage civil service officers during the Committee of Supply debate.
He added that in 2014, the Public Service Division (PSD) worked together with the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees (AUPE) and the Ministry of Education to do a study on the work challenges of Operations Support Officers in schools.
This is a welcomed move, considering that these workers typically earn between $1, 114 to $1,313 doing simple administrative and office work and maintaining schools’ general cleanliness.
Upskill for better productivity
Of course, it would be unsustainable for salaries to increase without being substantiated with an increase in productivity or output.
So on top of the salary increments, the civil service will also provide these lower-wage officers with more training support and opportunities to upskill.
A Training Incentive Scheme is in place to encourage and reward officers who upgrade themselves.
This will help to increase the productivity and skills of the officers and make their work more meaningful and easier.
Championing low-wage workers concerns
The Labour movement has been an advocate for the low-wage workers with Member of Parliament Zainal Sapari championing the low-wage worker cause.
In fact, Mr Zainal also suggested for the Government to strive for higher annual wage growth for the 20th percentile compared to the 50th percentile on a sustainable basis through a more concerted effort to improve productivity.
From April, the salary scales of the officers will also be lengthened, which means that officers who have reached the previous maximum of their scales can receive further increments as they upskill themselves. The adjustments resulted from close consultations together with the AUPE and the Ministry of Education.
DPM Teo made the commitment to improve the jobs and skills of lower wage civil servants adding that the PSD will continue to work with AUPE to make salary adjustments where necessary.
Welcoming the news, the AUPE said that the new measures will help lower wage civil servants to cope with the rising costs of living.