By Leong Sze Hian

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Last week, the Government trotted out statistics to show that in “in real terms – after adjusting for inflation – workers’ incomes went up more this year. The 3.9 per cent rise was not only higher than last year’s 2.5 per cent, it was the highest increase since the onset of the 2008 global financial crisis”. Here are some hard questions and some hard truths about the statistics.
Part-time workers’ real income growth
The real income growth of part-time workers excluding employer CPF contribution last year was minus 2.6% – with no change in the nominal income of $800. In this connection, the number of part-time workers increased from 196,800 to 205,000 last year. A part-time worker is one who works 35 hours or less in a week.
Real median income growth
There is also no longer a table in the MOM report to show the real median income growth excluding employer CPF contribution for the last 10 years and last five years.
Resident unemployment rate
Why has the non-seasonally adjusted resident unemployment rate increased from 3.7 to 3.9% last year, increasing to 82,600 from 2012′s 79,000 unemployed residents?
The labour market is tight, job growth is high, and yet the unemployment rate has risen
Singaporeans’ unemployment rate
Also, why is there no longer a breakdown of the unemployment rate into residents and Singaporeans? In the past, the Singaporean unemployment rate was typically higher than the resident rate.
Unemployment rate
What I find to be rather strange is that the highest unemployment rate was for Service & Sales Workers at 5.4%. If this is the type of jobs that Singaporeans consistently shun why is the unemployment rate for this sector the highest?
Could it be due to the influx of foreign workers and the depression of wages in this job category? That may be the reason why Singaporeans who lose such jobs have a hard time finding another equivalent similar job with similar pay and working conditions.
In this connection, the basic median salary of shop sales assistants is only $1,074. I also understand that this Service & Sales Workers category has seen the highest number of jobs created in recent years.
Real median income growth for last 11 years
Since I estimate that the real growth in the Median Gross Monthly Income for the Full-Time Employed (not all employed including part-time) per annum from 2002 to 2012 was only about 0.85 per cent – even with last year’s real income growth of 4.5 and 5.7% for all workers and full-time workers respectively, does it mean that the real income growth per annum for the last 11 years was only about 1.2%?
Increase of only $6.18 per year for last 11 years?
To put this pathetic state of affairs into perspective – a low-wage worker at the 20th percentile earning $1,000 11 years ago would only have had a real income increase to hit about $1,068 now – a $6.18 increase per year over the last 11 years!
Leong Sze Hian is the past president of the Society of Financial Service Professionals

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