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Progressive Wage Model in Singapore's Security Sector

6 years ago / current affairs / ntuc

A look at Singapore's security sector

What's your dream job?

Mine's to be a tai tai and the husband wants to sell char kway tiao when his bond ends. No, seriously. And he says I'm going to have to be the Aunty in the yellow rubber boots standing at the hawker stall asking, "Ai hum mai hum?"

So much for my tai tai dream.

I have a girlfriend D who once said her dream job is to be a security officer. "Because can just sit in the room all day, listen to radio and get paid. Especially if you do night shift, there's nothing to do at all."

We laughed about it and said that will be our lives in 10 years - me in my rubber boots and her lepak-ing at some random condo.

But jokes aside, do you know that the average security officer earns a basic pay of $800 a month?



Granted, there are allowances and overtime and after adding it all in, it can maybe reach $1600 to $1700 and this is based on working 12 hours daily on a 6-day basis from 10am to 11pm.

This works out to be $5.20 per hour based on a 27-day work month.

We all know how high the cost of living is in Singapore... I'm not even talking about dining at the MBS celebrity restaurants or flying $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suites Class.

Let's do some simple sums:

  • Taking the bus to / from work (based on $1.80 per journey): $108 per month
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner (based on $4 per meal): $360 per month
  • Handphone bills (based on the lowest Singtel plan): $27.90
  • Utilities: $150
  • Total: $645.90

If you're around my age and with an income of $1700 (and this is the average gross salary we’re talking about, including OT and all, most security officers DON'T earn this much), you'll receive a take-home pay of $1360 of which after subtracting the above-mentioned expenses, you'll be left with $714.10 - and not forgetting that you will have to cover medical bills, insurance, and for breadwinners, their dependents' education and various living expenses.

And pray that nobody in your family ever falls sick.

Or get married.

I came across this Hard to be a low-wage worker article whilst trying to find out the average salary of a security guard and my heart just felt so... heavy.

Sure, the government could impose a minimum wage and this should make everyone happy right?

We could increase their salary by a couple of hundreds based on the minimum wage. But fast forward 5 years, or 10 years, these security guards could still be earning the same amount. This also means that companies can fire and hire anytime – at minimum wage. So it doesn’t matter how good you are, or how hard you work, you will never be better paid because the headcount only cares about how "cheap" you are. This is probably why even the Labour Chief Lim Swee Say says NTUC is not supportive of the minimum wage system, and prefers a more holistic model that includes training and progression for the workers as well as productivity gains for the business.

Moreover, as a business owner myself, I don't believe in paying higher wages just because I have to. I am all for increasing the salaries (and hence the standard of living) of my employees but this increase must come hand-in-hand with increased productivity and contribution to my company.

This is where the Progressive Wage Model comes in.

The PWM introduced by the Labour Movement aims to help workers earn better wages through skills upgrading and productivity improvements. It helps workers through 4 distinct ladders namely Wages, Skills, Productivity and Career Progression. With the PWM, companies will be able to better make use of their manpower, and ensure workers receive competitive wages that commensurate with enhanced job scopes and higher productivity levels.

This is the proposed working model for the Security Sector:

I honestly like it very much!

This PWM rewards the security officers who are really doing a good job. So my friend D who wants to just do nothing and get paid will not benefit out of this but for the hardworking, motivated individual, he/ she will strive to climb this career ladder and companies too will see an increase in productivity.

More importantly, this model gives our security officers a chance for a better future. You see, many of these security guards are in this position not entirely by choice but cause of circumstances, lack of education, troubled family background etc. And honestly, being a security officer isn't as senang a job as you think - you have to be physically strong and mentally alert to be constantly on the lookout, always under the hot sun, issuing Visitor Passes to cars even when it's raining heavily and stopping strangers to check their belongings etc... I don't think I can last a week day working in such conditions.

The PWM serves to incentivise and reward those who work hard and they (and their families) can enjoy a better standard of living as result - to celebrate his child's birthday at Swensen's, afford insurance and not worry about medical bills when a loved one falls sick and perhaps take that occasional family holiday one day.

You can find out more about the PWM here.

By the way, a few months back when the husband and I had a huuugggeee fight, I stomped out of his car and made my own way home...only to realise I didn't have the keys with me. I ended up spending a few hours at the guardroom of the nearby condo, with a very concerned pakcik ("uncle") who gave me water and tissues and told me to "calm down" and offered to walk me back to my home because it was 4am "and dangerous".

This pakcik was on my mind throughout as I was writing this post and I really hope that his company adopts this PWM so he gets to go on that dream family holiday to Langkawi and so that he needn't keep worrying if he can eventually afford his son's university fees.

Because there are those who deserve better jobs, better wages and better lives.