Six in 10 in Singapore prepared to request pay rise amid labour crunch, inflation: Survey

Four in 10 workers report feeling they put in between six and 10 hours of unpaid overtime work each week. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Workers in Singapore have high expectations of being given a pay rise and are ready to push their employers to get it, as costs of living increase amid a sharp labour crunch.

Human resources services company ADP said on Thursday (May 5) its annual People At Work report found six in 10 workers in Singapore are prepared to request a raise.

The figure rises to seven in 10 for workers aged between 25 and 34, added ADP, which surveyed more than 1,400 workers in Singapore last November as part of a worldwide survey of almost 33,000 across 17 countries for the latest edition of the report.

This explores the attitudes employees hold towards work and their hopes for their workplace in future.

ADP, which is headquartered in the United States, said more than three-quarters of workers globally say they are likely to ask for a pay rise if they feel they deserve one.

The findings come at a time when Singapore faces record vacancies in the job market, with a high of 114,000 job vacancies last December, more than double the figure of 53,000 in December 2020, as companies struggle to fill positions to keep up with pent-up demand, particularly for the services sector.

ADP noted: "Globally, the cost of living is rising rapidly in many parts of the world amid high global inflation, which is expected to remain elevated for some time, and (it follows) two years of pandemic-related disruption to jobs."

In its statement, ADP also said around five in 10 workers in Singapore expect to get a pay rise in the next 12 months and more than four in 10 expect to be given a bonus.

"This is despite only a third expecting to be given a promotion or any increased responsibility."

The company said one reason that workers may feel they deserve a pay rise is the number of extra hours of unpaid work many of them are doing, by starting early, staying late, or working over breaks.

Four in 10 workers in Singapore reported feeling they put in between six and 10 hours of unpaid overtime work each week, said ADP.

Workers surveyed in Singapore reported working unpaid overtime of eight hours on average.

Globally, ADP also found pay to be the most important factor to workers in a job, with almost two-thirds saying it is a priority, followed by job security (54 per cent), flexibility over working hours (33 per cent) and enjoyment of their work (32 per cent).

In Singapore, respondents place a higher-than-average importance on pay, with 71 per cent of respondents considering pay the most important factor, said ADP.

"Having worked hard through the pandemic and with more vacancies than job seekers in the current job market, many workers feel they need - and are entitled to - a raise," said Ms Yvonne Teo, Asia-Pacific vice-president of human resources at ADP.

"Employers should bear this in mind in today's tight labour market, where maintaining a stable and skilled workforce is paramount yet more challenging than ever."

Added Ms Teo: "Employers have to reconcile the drive for higher wages with business continuity.

"Financial incentives alone are unsustainable in the long term and compensation can only get talent through the door.

"In addition to paying competitively and fairly, employee retention depends on many other factors."

Beyond pay, factors that can affect employee retention include the relationships that they have developed with their colleagues and the alignment of a company’s goals and objectives with employees’ personal interests and aspirations, noted Mr Mayank Parekh, chief executive of the Institute for Human Resource Professionals.

He said companies often make salary adjustments to retain people with critical skills that are in short supply, while factoring in changes to the costs of living as measured by the consumer price index.

He added that employers can handle employees’ requests for salary raises by having clear pay, promotion and staff development policies.

“For example, pay scales for different levels should be made transparent so that individual employees have a clear understanding of their position within a range and the pace of salary progression based on seniority, performance and skill acquisition.

“There should also be clear policies on promotion and internal access to job opportunities through development programmes.”

Whether employers need more time to find their footing as Singapore recovers from Covid-19 before they can raise wages depends on the employers’ business performance and prospects, said Mr Sim Gim Guan, executive director of the Singapore National Employers Federation.

“We also have to keep in mind that the loss in revenues in the past two years for industries like hospitality and aviation were deadweight, since they cannot sell the rooms and seats that were not filled previously, unlike some products that could make up some of the loss in revenues due to pent-up demand.

“Hence, their recovery may take longer than what their employees experience on the ground, since employees can see business picking up.”

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