Committee of Supply debate: Prime Minister's Office

Higher starting pay for public service engineers

Salaries to go up by about 20%; current engineers get pay reviews

Starting salaries of new engineers joining the public service will go up by about 20 per cent from the middle of the year to ensure they are competitive with the market.

Engineers already in service will also have salaries reviewed and adjusted, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said yesterday.

This means engineering graduates joining the public sector can expect salaries starting from $3,800 a month, and $4,000 and above a month for those joining the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.

"Salaries for engineers and ICT professionals vary across public agencies today.

"Some are already paying salaries that are largely competitive with the market, while the salaries in other agencies lag significantly," Mr Teo said in Parliament during the debate on spending plans for the Prime Minister's Office.

  • $0.5 billion 

    Total bill; up 11.2 per cent from last year.

    1.24 

    Singapore's total fertility rate - the average number of children a woman will have over her lifetime - last year.

    1,000 

    Additional number of engineers the public service will hire this year.

    1,600 

    Number of babies, born to Singaporeans living abroad, who were granted Singapore citizenship last year.

"In specific areas, we will pay a premium for engineers with skills that are in high demand and short supply such as cyber forensics and malware analysis, or those with niche skills that are critical and specific to the Government but for which there may be little market demand ."

The issue came into focus when Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC), Ms Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) and Mr Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) asked how the public sector intended to grow its engineering capabilities and retain talent. Mr Teo said one way is to improve the salaries of engineers, although that alone is insufficient.

The public service will also hire more engineers and develop frameworks to help them move up in their careers.

He gave more details about the previously announced move by the public service to hire 1,000 engineers this year. Of the new hires, seven in 10 will focus on Singapore's infrastructure development needs, such as transport and water systems. The rest will concentrate on the Smart Nation effort.

The new hires will grow the current pool of about 7,700 engineers by 13 per cent, and will comprise locals and foreigners.

Mr Teo, the minister-in-charge of the civil service, said seven public agencies, including the Housing Board and national water agency PUB, will develop "competency frameworks" later this year and map out skills needed by engineers as they progress in their careers.

"Our engineers can use this framework to identify their own training needs, and develop expertise and mastery in specific areas," he said.

"We hope to have many more engineers of the type that Mr Liang talked about - people who know their job and love to serve people, and can do their job very well."

The Government will also identify good engineers and train them for key leadership roles in ministries and public agencies.

These engineers will be mentored by senior technical experts and have opportunities to work on inter-agency engineering projects, and network with other engineers.

"Through such training opportunities and exposure, good public- sector engineers will be prepared to take on positions such as chief engineers, chief technology officers and the like in the public service," he said. The public service will also set up centres of excellence to build up engineering expertise for crucial areas such as cyber security and geospatial information science.

Such initiatives aim to draw more Singaporeans to the engineering profession, Mr Teo said. "Taken together, these measures will attract more Singaporeans to take up engineering as a meaningful, fulfilling and exciting long-term career in the public service," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 14, 2016, with the headline 'Committee of Supply debate: Prime Minister's Office Higher starting pay for public service engineers'. Print Edition | Subscribe