Civil servants to get year-end bonus of 0.65 month amid slow economic growth

Civil servants will get a year-end bonus of 0.65 month this year, down from 0.8 month in 2014. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Civil servants will get a year-end bonus of 0.65 month this year amid slowing economic growth, the Public Service Division (PSD) said on Wednesday.

About 1,300 of them who are paid lower wages will benefit from a minimum payout of $1,100.

These figures are down from last year, when civil servants got a 0.8 month bonus with the lowest payout set at $1,200. In 2013, they got a year- end bonus of 1.1 month with the minimum payout at $1,600.

The civil service is Singapore's biggest employer with 82,000 workers in the various government ministries and departments. Statutory boards, which are separate entities, are not covered by the PSD's announcement.

The lower bonus comes amid tepid economic growth. Wednesday's announcement coincided with a Government forecast that the economy will grow by "close to 2 per cent" for the whole of this year - less upbeat than the earlier forecast of between 2 and 2.5 per cent.

This is down from the 2.9 per cent growth which Singapore recorded last year.

The payouts were decided in consultation with public sector unions, the PSD said.

National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Cham Hui Fong said in a statement that the NTUC and its affiliated public sector unions are in support of the PSD announcement.

She said: "Amidst the backdrop of a lacklustre global economy ... the total payout package shows the Government's appreciation to the public service officers for their dedication and contribution."

Together with a mid-year bonus of 0.5 months, as well as the traditional 13th month bonus that will be paid out in December, civil servants will get a total bonus payout this year of 2.15 months. On top of that, they had each received a $500 one-off payment in July to mark Singapore's 50th birthday this year.

Last year, civil servants received a total bonus of 2.3 months, and in 2013, they got a total bonus of 2.5 months.

Amalgamated Union of Public Employees (AUPE) general secretary Yeo Chun Fing said the union is pleased that civil servants' contributions are being valued despite the lower economic forecast.

The unions also cheered the minimum payout of $1,100, saying that it signals the PSD's continued commitment to help lower-wage workers.

For example, officers who earn $1,500 per month will be getting $125 more than the $975 they would have received if the bonus is pegged to 0.65 month of their salary.

"The amount will come in handy for our lower-wage workers during this festive season, as well as (help them) cope with the higher cost of living," said Amalgamated Union of Public Daily Rated Workers general secretary G Muthukumarasamy.

"I urge our members to spend the bonus wisely in view of the uncertain economy ahead."

School operations support officer Kamal Yem, who earns $1,545 per month, was overjoyed by the news.

He told The Straits Times: "I really really appreciate what the Government is doing for its low-income workers. The sum is very useful for my family, for my household, and for my son who is studying."

He added that he will celebrate the year-end by holding a "small family gathering".

The PSD, in noting a tight job market in its statement, said unemployment remained low, while employment growth has continued to slow amid weaker economic conditions.

Modest economic growth is expected going forward - the economy is forecast to expand between 1 and 3 per cent next year.

Given this outlook, Ms Cham of the NTUC said: "The Labour Movement and affiliated unions will continue to work closely with our partners to ensure that workers are well taken care of."

Mr Yeo also told The Straits Times that should the economy continue to slow even further, the AUPE might discuss with the PSD if there is a need to "recalibrate the whole mechanism" of how bonuses are paid out.

The civil service year-end bonus is closely watched by the private sector, which uses the figure as a guide for its bonus payments.

CIMB Private Bank economist Song Seng Wun said employees in certain industries, such as services, which have seen stronger growth might still get higher bonuses.

"For the broader economy, it really is going to be company or sector-specific. The bonuses may be more subdued but employees are still getting something for the year-end cheer. "

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