Singapore's reputation for cleanliness may rest on their shoulders, but cleaning assistants have to put up with low wages while earning little respect for their efforts. These issues were highlighted at the Let's Observe Ourselves (Loo) Awards yesterday at Our Tampines Hub.
"We must know the face behind keeping our toilets clean," said Mr Desmond Choo, Mayor of the North East District, who was guest of honour at the awards.
"Behind that face are wages that are not particularly high," he added.
Ms Tan Puay Hoon, president of the Restroom Association (Singapore), pointed to a mindset that Singapore needs to change. "Telling our children that if they don't study, they are going to become cleaners is very wrong. We need to teach children in school to respect cleaners," she told The Straits Times.
There were 42 winners in the ninth edition of the awards, in the run-up to World Toilet Day tomorrow. The toilet at Sentosa Beach Station was picked as "Happy Toilet of the Year" by a panel of three judges.
There were also platinum and gold stars for schools promoting sanitary hygiene. Pupils at Qihua Primary School received a platinum star for their toilet inspector initiative, where pupils use iPads to survey restrooms in the school to ensure their cleanliness.
The issue of cleaners' salaries persisted. Mr Choo highlighted the work of Madam Yu Lee Wah, a 66-year-old cleaning assistant at Marina Bay Sands with 24 years of experience, who is paid an allowance of $200 on top of $1,400 a month.
Salaries like Madam Yu's are on the higher side for cleaners.
Said Mr Choo: "How far Singapore has progressed will not just be shown by the beautiful buildings, but how clean our toilets are too."