Why aren’t security officers paid more?

Last week, Standard Chartered got robbed because there was no security officer present.


I think we’re under estimating how important security guards are to our eco system. They keep watch over us. They make sure people behave in clubs and pubs. They keep dodgy characters out of our condos. They’re part of the reason why we’re so different from other cities. We don’t pay heed to the fact that they are also a very integral part of internal security in Singapore.


How would you feel if your doctor or pilot was paid cheaply. Would you feel safe and secure in their hands? What if the police was lowly paid, how would that make you feel?

Would it make you feel comfortable that the security officer at your building was paid low wages?

Never mind that, we are known to be rude and even assault our guards.

It’s true – the WSH Institute identified the role of Security officers to be at risk of work place assault. The work they do puts them in a position where they have to be firm with members of the public. Not everyone deals well with firmness and sometimes they are thrust into conflict.

Back to the issue of wages.

Before the Progressive Wage Model, the median monthly basic pay of a full-time security officer was about $800. With new wage model in place, they’re now taking back salaries of up to $1400. But it could be more.

Do we really put that little value to our security? Does that even make sense in this climate of terrorism?

pwm security

How have we become like this? Is it perhaps Singapore is too safe? We could very well be a victim of our own success. It could be because of our no nonsense criminal justice system or the efficiency of our police force, we no longer see security as something that is worth paying a lot for.

Most of the time, when we ask for security guards, we’re really just looking for caretakers. Someone who happens to be around, a live human to speak with in case you need to.

But given the changing climate, we ought to look a little closer at this very important industry. Although the police force is an important pilar of homeland security, they cannot be at all places at all times.

For this to happen, an overhaul of the industry needs to happen. This must start with how security agencies design the careers of officers. It is not sufficient to pay based on the outdated model of “one salary till the day you resign”. With the different skill sets, training programs and qualifications available on the market, it makes more sense to develop multi-tiered career tracks to be introduced.

The Union of Security Employees (USE) is doing just that – the union wants specialist routes for the myriad of security skills available. Examples of these skills include security system installation, lifesaving and using automated external defibrillators. The USE also wants an ad-hoc track to link about 32,000 freelance licensed officers with jobs through a website or mobile app.

With these career tracks, greater recognition of its roles and responsibilities would be made clearer to service buyers and ultimately the general public. There would be clear differentiation between a mere “jaga” and a trained security officer.

The result? Better pay, greater respect and wider choices for the security employee.

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