Money In Wallets, Please…


IT INVARIABLY comes down to pay.

Singaporeans are not happy with their work because they feel that they are underpaid. This was one of the key findings in the JobsCentral Work Happiness Survey Report 2017, released late last month.

The survey was conducted between June and July, and there were a sizeable 1,843 respondents.

If this is the first time you are hearing of this survey, it is probably because there is no mention of it in the mainstream media, as far as we can tell.

What else did JobCentral’s survey reveal? There is good news and bad news. One piece of good news is that stepping into working life and starting a career may be the happiest period for most workers in Singapore.

Employees aged 16-20 years appear to be the happiest workers. In terms of occupation, the happiest workers are those in translation and editorial. This was followed by those in public relations, marketing, research & development and legal.

When happiness of workers in industries was compared, those in the arts, entertainment and recreation were found to be happiest, followed by those in water supply, sewerage and waste management.

Low Scores

Here is the bad news. JobCentral’s Overall Work Happiness Indicator Score of 46.8% was the lowest on record since the survey began in 2009. Further, the unhappiest workers are in compliance, administration, management and merchandising/purchasing.

And if 16-20 year olds were the happiest workers, it went downhill from there. Those in the 51-60 years age band were the unhappiest.

The most important takeaway from the survey is that money is the main motivator for workers in Singapore. Respondents noted that a pay rise and salary as most important to them in deciding work happiness.

Last year, wages in Singapore grew at the slowest pace since 2009. Including employers’ pension contributions, that people can’t touch until much later in their lives and which leaves less money in their pockets today, worker’s total pay rose by 3.1% in 2016, down from 4.9% in 2015, according to the Ministry of Manpower.

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Look Beyond The Numbers

Let’s look at last year’s wage growth number more closely. If you are earning $2,000 a month, 3.1% growth would add about $60 to your salary every month. At $10,000 a month, it will add about $300 a month. Would this have an impact on improving the lifestyles of those in different pay scales? It seems unlikely in high-cost Singapore.

The wage growth data encapsulates the silliness of the general perception of economic data. Growth is always seen as positive, but then, more often than not, the analysis or the reporting ends.

It’s like opening a book, reading the foreword and then closing the book. The details are ignored. The devil is always in the details.

It seems logical that putting more money in the pockets of Singaporeans will not only be good for them but for the Singapore economy in general. They will have more spending power, which in turn will boost the economy. If there is more consumer spending, a thriving economy would ensue, which is ultimately good for companies as well. They can plan growth strategies with greater conviction in their expectations of demand for their goods and services.

However, in today’s world, it is all about corporate profits. When times are rough, companies have a mindset that always looks to cut workforce and wage costs. At the end of the day, the more companies cut, the less people will have to spend. And when people have less to spend, corporate profits fall. Then we are back to square one. It all seems utterly pointless. JobsCentral Overall Work Happiness Indicator can thus be seen as leading indicator of the economic malaise in Singapore.

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