Singapore Budget 2015: Median wages increased six times since 1965

SINGAPORE - The real median wages of Singaporean workers have gone up by about six times since 1965, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said on Monday.

"Everyone has moved up, including poorer Singaporeans," he said during the budget speech in Parliament.

In the second part of his speech, which focused on the gains that Singapore workers have made in the 50 years since Singapore's independence, he gave a few examples.

"The older amongst us will remember the Swan brand socks we wore as schoolchildren - tearing off the Swan label that was pasted on each new pair of white school socks," he said.

Jalan Tukang, where the factory was located, is now an Innovation Park and home to high-tech companies, he said.

Comparing wages for lower income Singaporeans then and now, he said a factory worker at a rubber slipper factory then would earn $87 a month.

Today, a lower-income Singaporean worker would earn about $1,860, which is about an increase of 5.5 times after adjusting for inflation.

For middle-income Singaporeans, the rise is six times, after accounting for inflation. The median gross monthly income was $3,770 in June 2014, according to statistics from the Ministry of Manpower website.

Singapore's median wage is now the highest among the Asian newly industrialised economies and is about 10 per cent lower than in Japan, he added.

Wages for the lowest-paid jobs, including for cleaners and security guards, have stagnated in the last decade but have begun moving up, according to the finance minister.

He warned that wage stagnation has set in for most developed economies in the US, much of Europe and Japan.

"The stagnation in median incomes in all these countries has happened despite the real strengths that they have, some of which exceed our own capabilities in Singapore," he said.

chuimin@sph.com.sg