The Straits Times reported on Wednesday that 75% of the “around 50” companies surveyed by the Singapore Business Federation will not be giving wage increments to their staff despite the Wage Credit Scheme (WCS). This report raised several questions when I read it.
First was the questionable headline of the report that said “Some firms won’t pass on wage subsidy”. Wouldn’t a more accurate headline be “Most firms surveyed by SBF will not pass on wage subsidy”? Did ST deliberately try to downplay this important and negative finding? One can argue that ST did include in smaller text a sub headline that said 75% of around 5o firms surveyed will give staff same pay rises as last year. While this is factual, wouldn’t it be more accurate, in the spirit of WCS, for the sub headline to say “75% of around 50 firms surveyed will not give higher pay rises despite WCS”?
Some may say I am nitpicking. But those familiar with word play and spin will understand my point here. Saying a bottle is half full somehow sounds better than saying it is half empty doesn’t it?
The way ST wrote this report made me read it twice to be clear that I got the facts right.
And the facts were clear that the majority of firms will not use the WCS to give higher pay increases to their employees. Only 21% of those surveyed “are likely” to give a bigger increment because of the scheme. Note the non-definite words “are likely” which implies they may also decide not to do so. To add insult to injury, many of those surveyed said they would use the subsidy to defray their operating costs!
If this survey is representative of all employers in Singapore, what then does it say about the WCS? Should it be renamed Costs Credit Scheme since most will use it to cope with higher costs? Why then should public funds be used to subsidise for-profit businesses which include mega MNCs and GLCs? And it is for three straight years that the government will co-pay 40% of wage rises of Singaporean workers earning $4,000 and under.
I had first written about the WCS in a previous post, questioning if it is proper for the government to use public funds to subsidise wage increments even if it is to encourage employers to give Higher increments to boost low wage earners income. While the intent is not a bad one, ie to help low wage workers, my question is now even more pertinent as it looks like the WCS objective may not be achieved if the employers don’t use the money to giver higher rises. Is it proper then for the government to subsidise the companies’ operating costs? Why isn’t there strict criteria on how WCS will be utilised? Can the government do something about it to ensure it is subsidising for the right reason?
So many questions and so few answers. I wonder what the next bigger survey will unveil. If there is one.