159,000 local low-wage workers to earn at least $1,400 from Sept 1

The Progressive Wage Model has been extended to in-house workers in the cleaning, security, and landscape sectors. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - From Thursday (Sept 1), firms that employ foreign workers must pay all full-time local workers at least the Local Qualifying Salary of $1,400 as part of continual efforts to raise the wages of lower-wage workers. 

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in a statement on Wednesday said the move will benefit about 159,000 workers who are not in Progressive Wage Model (PWM) sectors.

The PWM sets out the minimum pay and training requirements for workers at different levels of skill, and currently is in place for some workers in the cleaning, security and landscape sectors.

Of the 159,000, about 33,000 workers were earning less than the $1,400 Local Qualifying Salary and will starting earning at least that amount from Sept 1, bringing them in line with the other workers. 

Two other wage changes will take effect on Thursday.

First, the PWM will kick in for low-wage retail workers and will benefit about 19,000 full-time employees.

The expansion of the PWM to cover low-wage retail workers was announced on Aug 15.

Second, the PWM will be extended to about 19,000 in-house workers in the cleaning, security and landscape sectors.

Now, the model applies only to outsourced workers in these sectors.

All in, about 197,000 full-time lower-wage workers will benefit from the progressive wage initiatives that kick in on Thursday.

The PWM sets out the minimum pay and training requirements for workers at different levels of skill.

The MOM statement said: "The extension of these PWMs to cover in-house workers will mean that workers who undertake the same job roles as outsourced workers - such as those employed in-house by hotels, facility management firms, food services firms and other businesses - must be paid at least the PWM wage corresponding to their respective job roles."

It added that employers are required to assess if their workers are covered by the PWM based on job descriptions on MOM's website.

They should update and submit their workers' PWM job roles, if any, through MOM's Occupational Employment Dataset portal, it said.

And from September this year to February next year, tripartite partners will focus on educating employers on the various progressive wage requirements.

MOM said: "Employers will be given time to adjust and comply."

It added that those who do not comply with the requirements during this transitional period will not face enforcement action.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Marine Parade GRC MP Fahmi Aliman said NTUC is exploring with other stakeholders the possibility of expanding the PWM to more industries, such as pest management.

The labour MP said: "When we adopt the PWM, we want to ensure that the wages earned by workers should commensurate with their skills and productivity levels.

"No particular group of workers should be faced with stagnating wages as experienced by essential services workers in the outsourced sectors."

The Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) in a statement said it encourages employers to press on with productivity improvements by leveraging technology to rely less on foreign manpower as well as upskill workers, among other things.

It added that a whole-of-society approach is needed to uplift lower-wage workers.

"Therefore, SNEF encourages service buyers and consumers to support businesses that pay progressive wages and show better appreciation for the lower-wage workers," it said.

MOM has said the qualifying salary is reviewed regularly to keep pace with rising local wages and ensure that quota controls remain effective, so that these workers will be "assured that their wages will not fall below $1,400".

A firm's work permit and S Pass quota entitlement is calculated based on the number of local employees earning at least the local qualifying salary.

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