Parliament: Up to 12% salary jump for social service professionals in MSF-funded schemes

A Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) Social Service office in Punggol.
A Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) Social Service office in Punggol. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Social service professionals and pre-school educators have reason to cheer - their salaries are set to rise.

From April 1 this year, the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) will raise the salary guidelines for social service staff working in MSF-funded programmes by up to 12 per cent from its last financial year.

This covers personnel from social workers to therapists and executives, across different levels of seniority. These workers are not hired by the MSF, but by social service organisations or charities running MSF-funded programmes.

Announcing the pay rise in Parliament on Wednesday (March 7), Social and Family Development Minister Desmond Lee said: "Many of those who work in the social service sector do not do it for the remuneration. They see it as a calling. Nonetheless, they deserve to receive a fair and competitive wage and have their contributions recognised."

The MSF and the National Council of Social Service (NCSS) review the salary guidelines every three years, to ensure that wages in the social service sector, estimated to be 15,000-strong, remain competitive. Another 1,000 people are needed in the sector by next year.

The NCSS will release the new salary guidelines later this month.

But Mr Lee gave a hint of what is to come: A senior teacher trained to work with young children with special needs can expect a pay rise of about 8 per cent.

While the pay guidelines are not compulsory, charities interviewed say they follow them in order to attract and retain staff.

About three in four people working in groups running MSF-funded programmes are paid within the recommended salary guidelines, said a ministry spokesman. The total manpower cost funded by the MSF is projected to be about $211 million in its 2018 financial year, an increase from last year's amount of about $194 million.

When interviewed, the heads of charities said the challenge is to raise more donations to match the salary increases funded by the MSF, as not all their staff run MSF-funded programmes. And they cannot just raise the salaries of staff working for MSF-funded programmes, without doing so for the rest.

Meanwhile, salaries in the pre-school sector are also set to rise.

The median pay in the early childhood education sector has grown by around 15 per cent in the past three years, compared with a rise of about 8 per cent for jobs in general.

Another 3,000 more early childhood professionals are needed by 2020, bringing the number to 20,000, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

As the pre-school sector continues to expand, the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) expects salary growth for pre-school educators to continue to outpace general market trends.

In response to a question by Mr Amrin Amin (Sembawang GRC) on plans to develop the early childhood sector, Dr Faishal said ECDA will work with anchor operators to boost the career prospects for pre-school educators, such as creating more career progression opportunities.

For example, there is room for teachers to take on more senior roles, such as mentors to junior teachers, or as school leaders to manage a cluster of centres.

Pre-schools designated as anchor operators receive government grants in return for meeting certain quality criteria and not raising their fees beyond a certain level. They include the PAP Community Foundation (PCF) and NTUC's My First Skool.

Over the next five years, the anchor operators will create some 1,000 more senior positions, doubling the current figure.