Singapore civil servant bonus 2019 - how does it compare to your year end bonus?

PHOTO: Pexels

The end of the year tends to make Singaporeans feel pretty broke, what with the pressure to take part in endless gift exchanges and go on blowout overseas trips. The one saving grace for most workers? 3 words: year end bonus.

While many employers do pay employees a year end bonus, this practise is by no means mandatory in Singapore. So count yourself lucky if your last paycheck of the year is fatter than the rest!

You might also be wondering what (if anything) your peers in other sectors will get. But unless you don’t mind getting banned from every social event henceforth, you can’t very well just baldly ask your family and friends to show you their salary slips.

So what’s a FOMO sufferer to do? Luckily, there’s always one sector that publicly announces their year end bonus: the civil service.


The civil service is known for their generous year end bonuses, but thanks to the slowing economy, 2019 is an exception.

In December 2019, civil servants in the lower pay grades will receive 0.1 month’s salary for their Annual Variable Component (AVC), plus a $250 to $1,500 lump sum payment. According to the PSD announcement, around 2,200 civil servants in Grades III to V of the Operations Scheme (OSS) will receive the highest additional payout of $1,500.

The senior civil servants in the superscale grades will receive just a one-off payment of $400 in place of the AVC. This means that generally, the junior civil servants will receive more than their seniors.

This is a 10 year-low for the public sector — last year, the AVC was 1 month, which is 10X more.

Read Also
Lowest bonus in 10 years for civil servants
Lowest bonus in 10 years for civil servants

The AVC is calculated separately from the 13th month pay (called “Non-Pensionable Annual Allowance”), which all civil servants get.

Civil servants’ 13th month is also paid out in December, which means that most civil servants can look forward to a 2.01-month paycheck this year end: regular monthly salary + 13th month + 0.1 month year end bonus.

FYI, all of Singapore’s civil servants also got a mid-year bonus AND a one-off lump sum payment in July. 

  Senior civil servants  Civil servants Lower wage civil servants
Mid year bonus 0.45 month + $200  0.45 month + $200  0.45 month + $300 
Year end bonus $400  0.1 month + $250 to $1,500 
TOTAL 2019 BONUSES 0.45 months + $600 0.55 month + $550 to $1,800

Although lower than previous years, the total annual bonuses is still pretty meaty indeed.


Outside of the civil service, data about bonuses is extremely hard to find, perhaps because it’s always in employers’ interests to keep things under wraps.

According to a ChannelNews Asia article, human resource analysts estimate full-year bonuses in the private sector to be between 1.5 to 2.3 months.

Industry experts also predict that the retail and manufacturing sectors are likely to pay poorly in 2019. On the flip side, the booming tech and banking sectors seem to be doing relatively well despite the downturn.

These sectors are expected to continue hiring and are thus expected to hand out above-average bonuses to continue attracting talent.

(What, you didn’t think employers would give out bonuses for completely noble and selfless reasons, right?)

The analysts also reportedly shared that MNCs will probably pay better bonuses than SMEs, which tend to lack formal policies on such extra payments.

Read Also
Which would you choose: An annual bonus or a salary increment?
Which would you choose: An annual bonus or a salary increment?

Obviously, the kind of bonus you can expect varies not just with your industry and company size, but also the performance of your company… and how willing its leaders are willing to share profits with their staff.

To know if your year end bonus is in the healthy zone, find out how well your employers and sector has grown in 2019 and do the math.

For example, if you’re in a high-growth sector like finance & insurance — which expanded by 4.3% year-on-year in Q3 2019but you’re getting absolutely nothing this year… It’s probably a sign that you should start sending your CV to competitors.


While writing this, I realised that all my life, I’d been labouring (lol) under the impression that “year end bonus” and “13th month” or “AWS” were the same thing.

In case you’re blur like me, here’s a quick and dirty guide to what the two are all about.

  AWS or 13th month Bonus
What is it? Extra month’s pay on top of employee’s annual pay One-off payments to reward employees, e.g. performance bonus
Is it required by MOM? No No
How much is it? Usually a month’s salary Totally variable, at company’s discretion
When is it set? Usually agreed on as part of the pay package in the employment contract Typically end of the year, but can also be on an ad-hoc basis
Things to note Employer can decide to negotiate and lower the amount if company performance is poor that year Companies usually don’t guarantee bonuses

AWS, Annual Wage Supplement, 13th month, Non-Pensionable Annual Allowance… these are all different names for the same thing.

It’s basically an extra month’s pay, often tacked onto your last paycheck of the year (or sometimes split into 12 payments and added to each month’s salary).

Some people speak of AWS as almost an entitlement, but actually, not all companies do this AWS thing.

It’s not compulsory by law. Because of this discrepancy, it’s better to look at the annual rather than monthly number when you’re trying to figure out how much you get paid.

If you’re working in a company that practises AWS, your year end paycheck is double the usual amount.

But that does NOT mean you got 1 month bonus.

Read Also
Employers federation's advice on year-end bonuses: Be responsible, take company performance into account
Employers federation's advice on year-end bonuses: Be responsible, take company performance into account

It’s something that was already pre-agreed when you signed the employment contract and is not affected by your work performance or your employer’s profit margin.

On the other hand, bonuses can be a totally random amount – not necessarily a month’s salary – and you might get them at a totally random time and for a random reason.

Unlike AWS, bonuses are not usually agreed on before you join the company and prove yourself (which sane employer would do that?).

Instead, they’re sort of a gift that the employer gives you to say, “hey, you did well at work this year, here’s a token of gratitude.”

Note that all your AWS and bonuses count towards your annual salary – you did earn all of it, right? So if you’re job-hunting, be sure to tally all that stuff up as you’re negotiating your pay package.

This article was first published in MoneySmart