Singapore—Activist Roy Ngerng, in a piece for TheNewsLens.com, has called the perception that Singaporeans earn one of the highest wages in the world an “illusion,” despite the fact that Singapore has been ranked ninth in GDP per capita by the World Bank.
Mr Ngerng wrote in his article, Singaporeans Are Paid Much Lower Than You Might Think, published on 18 August, that the much vaunted Swiss standard of living has given rise to implications that Singaporeans earn comparable salaries with citizens in European countries such as Switzerland, Norway, and Denmark.
The is not true, he wrote. “Comparing Singapore with Switzerland and Nordic countries like Norway and Denmark, Singaporeans earn the lowest wages.
In fact, workers in Singapore earning the median wage do not even earn the minimum wage of professional cleaners in Switzerland, Norway, and Denmark. Singapore’s median wage workers receive only half to a third of the median wage in these other countries.”
Mr Ngerng writes that in Singapore, resident cleaners who are outsourced are paid S$1,236 monthly, which is around one-third to one-fifth of what cleaners earn in these European countries.
“In other words, Singaporeans are paid much less than their peers, and are not paid on par with their GDP per capita,” he added.
Instead, the wages of outsourced resident cleaners in Singapore are comparable with those of workers from Malta who make minimum wages. This is less than what cleaners in Spain make, and about half of what cleaners in Italy earn.
According to Mr Ngerng,”Singapore’s median wage is also only at the level of Italy and Spain,” even as he points out that “Italy, Spain, and Malta have GDPs per capita of only half that of Singapore’s.”
In contrast, the salaries paid to Singapore’s leaders are very high when compared to the rest of the world.
Mr Ngerng writes that the salary of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is “way over what he should be paid” if he is “to be on par with the other countries at a similar level of GDP per capita (Switzerland, Norway and Denmark).”
PM Lee should only be earning between S$273,000 and S$683,000 if this were the case, according to the activist. Instead, he is the highest paid chief executive of a nation all over the world, with a salary of S$2.2 million. The next-highest paid chief executive is Hong Kong’s Carrie Lam, who earns around one-third of PM Lee’s salary, at around S$788,000 yearly.
Mr Ngerng added, “But perhaps he should only be earning between US$50,000 and US$130,000 – the level of Italy, Spain, and Malta. After all, Singaporean workers’ wages correspond to these countries. Instead, his current salary is 17 to 44 times what he should be paid.”
The activist’s main point is that the GDP growth that Singapore has enjoyed has not been to the advantage of ordinary Singaporeans, even as it has benefited well-paid officials from the People’s Action Party (PAP), through taxes, which have remained high, he wrote. —/TISG