Ah, 2023 is undeniably the year of government assistance in Singapore.
To be fair, we are receiving a substantial amount of financial support from the government to navigate the rising cost of living.
The reality of this can be felt as we travel across Singapore daily, particularly when venturing into the CBD areas, where it becomes more apparent that our wallets are taking a hit.
With housing and vehicle prices soaring, coupled with rising inflation affecting food and clothing expenses, the affordability of our basic needs has become a source of concern for many Singaporeans.
This is where the government steps in.
As we’ve recently learnt, the government has unveiled an additional $1.1 billion support package to alleviate the escalating cost of living in Singapore.
However, there is more support coming around soon.
On Tuesday (31 October), the National Wages Council (NWC) said that employers should consider assisting their employees in coping with the mounting expenses, extending support beyond what the government offers.
These guidelines, which have been endorsed by the government, are applicable for the period spanning from 1 December 2023 to 30 November 2024.
They have been introduced in response to the uncertain economic landscape.
Here are four key facts you should be aware of regarding the recommendations put forward by the NWC.
Increase in Monthly Wage for Lower-Wage Workers
The NWC has proposed a wage increase guideline of 5.5% to 7.5% for gross monthly wages of lower-wage workers, translating to a salary boost of at least S$85 to S$105, whichever is the higher amount.
For companies that have performed well and have optimistic business prospects, the recommendation is to provide salary increments at the upper end of this range.
Businesses that have demonstrated strong performance but are faced with uncertain prospects are advised to offer salary raises falling within the lower to middle segment of the range.
In cases where businesses have not performed well, the suggestion is to raise wages at the lower end of the specified range. The NWC further emphasises that if business prospects improve subsequently, employers should contemplate additional wage increases.
Reader: What defines a lower-wage worker here?
Well, according to NWC, lower-wage workers are defined as those earning a gross monthly wage of up to S$2,500, approximately corresponding to the 20th percentile wage level among full-time employed residents.
Employers to Implement a Flexible Wage System
“The NWC encourages employers to reward employees with wage increases that are fair and sustainable,” it said.
Additionally, the council emphasised the necessity for wage structures to exhibit resilience and adaptability, especially in times of uncertainty. Thus, a flexible wage system featuring a significant variable component in salaries was recommended.
In response to these recommendations, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) conveyed its acceptance of wage guidelines that are differentiated based on performance and economic outlook.
This recommendation comes in light of a 5.7% year-on-year decline in labour productivity during the first half of 2023, following a period of consistent growth averaging 2.7% per annum from 2016 to 2022.
One-Off Lump Sum Payment for Lower to Middle-Income Workers
Here comes the good news, especially if you fall into this category.
“To further help our employees cope, employers should consider giving a one-off special lump sum payment to employees, with heavier weightage for lower to middle-income employees,” the council said.
The proposal to give a one-off special lump sum payment, particularly for lower-wage and middle-wage workers, was made to help them “navigate the inflationary pressures that they are now facing.”
The government has supported the proposal to contemplate one-off lump sum payments to employees.
MOM further confirmed that the government’s commitment to assisting employers will persist through the five-year progressive wage credit scheme, which co-funds salary increases for eligible lower-wage workers.
About 52,000 Singaporeans and Permanent Residents Can Expect Better Pay from 1 Jul 2024
Starting 1 July 2024, about 52,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents can anticipate improved remuneration, building upon the initial baseline wages established in February 2023.
Under the latest schedule, administrative assistants will be required to receive a minimum gross monthly wage of $1,980 from 1 July 2025, a significant increase from the current minimum of $1,500.
This marks a substantial 32% upswing in their minimum pay.
Similarly, general drivers are set to experience an increase in their minimum pay, rising to at least $2,190 by the same date, as opposed to the current minimum of $1,750. This signifies a significant 25% boost in their minimum remuneration.
This difference is attributed to an additional “one-off adjustment” implemented to account for the rise in market wages since the prevailing requirements were established in 2021, as stated by the council.
Recognising that drivers’ wages commonly consist of a greater proportion of variable, performance-based wage components such as trip incentives, the NWC explained that the wage criteria for drivers in 2024 and 2025 are designed to facilitate robust wage growth while retaining the flexibility of incorporating variable wage elements into the overall compensation structure.
This approach is aimed at mitigating the impact on firms’ operational and workforce planning, as well as safeguarding the livelihoods of workers.