Our Unsung Heroes & Progressive Wage Model

Hello friends!

This space has always been a place for me to share all sorts of things. From what I eat, what I wear, where I go, and what I use. I’m very glad most of my readers all know that I only share what I believe in and many of you explicitly trust what I choose to share on here!

On another level, I am even more honoured to be able to use this avenue to not just share about frivolous, enjoyable things that we all love to read/see, but after a session with NTUC, I was given the opportunity to share about something that’s very relevant to all of us here in Singapore, especially us Singaporeans, and even more so if you’re an employed personnel in Singapore! If you’re like me, a born-and-bred Singaporean, or someone who works in Singapore or calls Singapore your home, then I urge you to read to the end of this entry! 🙂

Singapore’s National Day’s just passed less than a month ago, and I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely, extremely proud to call Singapore my home.

YZ and I especially dedicated this song “Home” to Singapore on our nation’s 49th birthday! 😀

There are so many things I appreciate and love about Singapore.

I love how convenient it is to get from place to place. I love Singlish (though sometimes it’s damn annoying too). I love the sunny weather most of the time! I love how safe it is. And most of all, I love how clean and green Singapore is!

And what most of us probably neglect to keep in mind is that Singapore is kept so clean by the thousands of employees hired as cleaners all across the nation. In schools, office buildings, shopping malls, food courts, even the estates that we all live in.. Everywhere! There are 55,000 cleaners all over Singapore!

The Plight of Our Unsung Heroes: Cleaners

A cleaner hard at work at the food court.

I sometimes find it incredulous how some diners mess up their tables and dirty the floor as they eat. Is it because they know there’ll be cleaners to help clean up?

And did you know how much the average cleaner earns per month?

Most of them used to earn only $650-$850 per month.

Singaporeans are always so quick to complain. But how many of us actually remember to give a word of appreciation or say thank you to cleaners? We complain about them being slow to attend to us, or being incompetent in cleaning up for us. But think about it. Cleaning is definitely not the easiest job in the world.

That’s not really the point of my blog post, though of course I really encourage you to give a simple word of appreciation to the service staff you see around you. A quick word of thanks can go a long way!

What I really wish to share about in this blog entry is to spread the good news about how better pay is now possible for all our unsung heroes, the cleaners, via the Progressive Wage Model!


What is the Progressive Wage Model?

Introduced by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), the objective of the Progressive Wage Model is to increase the salaries of workers sustainably through a proper career ladder supported by the enhancement of skills and improving productivity.

The gist of it is that a government legislation has been passed for all cleaners to now earn a base wage of $1000 (even $1,200 in some cases), and with higher wages pegged to higher skills, productivity and job responsibilities!

The Progressive Wage Model will not just help those in the cleaning industry, but also  eventually help other low-wage workers in different sectors achieve sustainable real wage increases which correspond to their skills and productivity levels. In fact, the Progressive Wage Model can be applied across all industries!

Watch these PWM videos to understand what it’s all about:




The Problem with Cheap-Sourcing

The problem with the cleaning industry is that most cleaning contracts are outsourced by shopping malls, hawker centres and other management committees. When buyers look for outsourced services, typically they choose the contractor who gives the cheapest quote (cheap-sourcing).

The problem with this is that because cheap-sourcing is so prevalent, contractors have issues raising the wages of their staff, sometimes even reducing the pay (to maintain their business’ bottomline especially after they won the contract based on lowest cost) of the staff.

This means that the same cleaner you’ve been seeing in your hawker centre or office building for the past few years might be earning the same or even less now than the first time you saw him/her three years ago. Isn’t that a sad thought?

With limited revenues due to customers’ preference for cheaper bids, contractors may have problems giving their staff better equipment or sending them for training. Thus, instead of cheap-sourcing, the Progressive Wage Model is part of the movement to encourage the industry into shifting into “BEST SOURCING“, where cost is not the only measure of value, and headcount is no longer the main consideration.

The Progressive Wage Model will not just help cleaners’ wages to be increased to at least $1,000 or $1,200 (depending on sector and nature of the cleaning jobs), they may also acquire new skills (like operating cleaning machines which makes work easier) for career progression and further wage increase each year with no more stagnation of wages!

This also benefits the employers because with the additional skill sets of trained employees, productivity is increased while the number of workers to do the job will reduce, which is a win-win situation for both employer and employee. Higher pay, better work conditions and career progression for each employee, and increased productivity with the use of machines in their jobs!

Like what the Labour Chief at NTUC, Mr Lim Swee Say, has said, “This is a big step forward but only the first step forward.” 

And he also said cleaners too, like all other workers, aspire for career progression, and with the Progressive Wage Model into full effect from 1St Sep, NTUC hopes that cleaners will not be looked upon as cheap labour but as valuable human resources, and that companies will invest in their career development and upgrading.

It may be a first step towards helping those in the cleaning industry earn a bit more, but I feel that it’s a huge move to help fight low wages and improve living standards for the lower income workers in Singapore. I’m feeling really glad that although the Progressive Wage Model was mooted and advocated by NTUC, our country as a whole cares enough to help our low-wage workers!

Once upon a time, I was so careless as to leave my entire wallet inside a food court. My wallet contained not just my identification cards and important credit cards, it had close to two thousand dollars cash in it. When I realised that my wallet was not with me, close to an hour after I’d left the food court, I was pretty much resigned to fate that I’d just lost a couple thousands of dollars.

Nonetheless though, I rang up my friend who was still in the area to check at the food court for me, and to my incredulity, the cleaner who found my wallet at the food court kept the wallet aside for me, and I received my wallet back in the exact same condition that I left it in, with NOT A DOLLAR MISSING.

Can you imagine how much disbelief I was in? My wallet had more than two months worth of salary to that cleaner, maybe even three, but he had the integrity to keep the wallet aside to return to its rightful owner, when it would have been so easy to just pocket it and pretend that he didn’t see anything! I didn’t manage to thank the cleaner personally, because he was off-duty already and I never found out exactly who it was, but for that act of integrity and kindness, I’ll always be grateful and appreciative.

Thank you, Mr Cleaner, and all our unsung heroes!


PS. All photos in this post were taken with full permission! 😉

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