The great salary debate: Can't compare apples and oranges

The great salary debate: Can't compare apples and oranges
A fast-food-chain waiter in Malaysia receives an hourly wage of around $3 on average, while a waiter in Singapore is paid an average $5 per hour for the same job. But this is no indication that the Singaporean worker is more productive or overpaid. On the contrary, we have to take into account factors like production costs and company revenue to better understand how the two workers are paid.

FORUM

SINGAPORE - I struggle to agree with the view that "Singapore's median income of $3,000 per month is fairly high". The reader who wrote to managing editor Han Fook Kwang has failed to appreciate a few points.

First, comparing the median income of Singaporeans to that of Malaysians is like comparing apples and oranges.

Salary is not always linked to productivity, but also to socioeconomic factors like the cost of living.

The hourly wage of a fast-food-chain waiter in Malaysia is $3, compared with $5 in Singapore. Given that the productivity of both workers is the same, does it mean that the Singapore worker is overpaid?

I would not think so because there are differences in the cost of living in the two countries. In Singapore, the average fast-food meal costs $8, compared with $4 in Malaysia.

Accordingly, there is a difference in the amount of money they earn for their companies - and they should be appropriately compensated for that.

Second, the reader considers workers in Japan, Germany and Switzerland more well-trained, articulate, creative and productive than their Singaporean counterparts.

Having lived overseas for a fair number of years, I do not share his opinion.

Like their Swiss and German counterparts, our workers fall into different parts of a spectrum, ranging from those who are poorly motivated to those who enjoy their work, are productive and employ creativity in the course of their work.

However, I agree that there is room for us to improve in our national productivity, and this can be done through empowering junior staff to make level-appropriate decisions, education, efficient staff deployment, outsourcing, infrastructure investment and reducing the excessive reliance on foreign labour.

- Christopher Liu

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