The great salary debate: Defensive mindset must go

FORUM

SINGAPORE - All concerned Singaporeans should read and re-read managing editor Han Fook Kwang's commentary.

Arising from the issue of our median income stagnating at $3,000 per month, the question is whether this reflects the true worth of Singaporean workers vis-a-vis others.

The unique circumstances in Singapore peg our median income at the current level. We count our blessings and thank our far-sighted leaders for the blissful state they have brought us, but we need not apologise for it.

However, the reader who responded to Mr Han's earlier commentary ("When wages fail to grow along with economy"; June 16) pointed out numerous hard truths about Singaporean workers.

Issues that cannot be ignored any longer include many local graduates' inability to converse in good English, lack of confidence to interact in group situations, poor reasoning and critical thinking skills, and a reluctance to venture abroad, as well as the fact that the average worker here is not as well trained as those in Japan and Germany.

I know these to be fair observations, having worked in two global companies in the past 32 years. I agree with Mr Han that there are "no quick fixes or easy solutions" and "it will require fundamental changes both in the economy and in the education and training of Singaporeans".

However, I would go further to suggest that efforts should be made now to change the defensive mindset of many Singaporeans from an early age, both at home and in school.

By being humble and accepting that we have to learn to speak well, interact better, think harder, learn the job well and be adventurous in our career choices, we will be taking a giant step forward in turning us into a world-class workforce.

By defending the current system and practices on the basis of flattering rankings that we have received periodically, we will continue to sell ourselves short.

Not only will our median income stagnate, but so will our intellect and job skills relative to our neighbours' and competitors'.

- Yeoh Teng Kwong


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