The great salary debate:All have a part to play in increasing wages

FORUM

SINGAPORE - There are three additional perspectives to consider.

First, the growth of our economy has benefited higher-income workers, given our focus on the financial, high-tech and pharmaceutical sectors.

Our gross domestic product (GDP) per capita increased by 67per cent, from $38,865 in 2002 to $65,048 last year. Within the same period, residents' gross median monthly income grew slower, by 46 per cent, from $2,380 to $3,480.

Income inequality remains high with our Gini coefficient at 0.45 to 0.48, and the top decile's resident household income is four times that of the middle decile. Therefore, we have to focus on growing industries that also generate good median wage jobs.

Second, the wage share of GDP in Singapore has averaged a low 40per cent for the past three decades, which is 10 to 15 per cent behind that of developed economies.

This difference is due to our reliance on multinational corporations (MNCs) and higher-output- oriented industries, and also our friendly business policies and sustained foreign labour inflow. Business owners have obtained more value from our economic growth than workers. Therefore, our unions must continue to ensure that workers earn their fair share of the growing pie.

Third, even as MNC executives complain about the poor attitude and lack of skills of some Singaporean workers, we must remember that there are many other Singaporeans who diligently contribute to their businesses.

MNCs choose to be situated in Singapore because of our strong rule of law, competitive tax regime and attractive and safe environment. Singaporeans contribute to this safe, secure and stable society through national service and taxes.

The Government is right to consider how to ensure that employers give Singaporeans fair and just consideration for jobs.

We, as workers, must step up to grow median wages, but the Government, unions and business owners must also play a part to ensure that the increased efforts of Singaporean workers are justly rewarded.

- Soon Sze Meng


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