My happiness depends on blue-collar workers

A blue-collar worker is an employee who performs manual labour. Remember the times when factory workers wore light blue shirts as uniforms? Thanks to that, I don't usually buy that shade of blue. Not that there's anything wrong with with being a blue-collar worker; but that there's no point paying money for a blouse that factory workers can get for free.

My parents were blue-collar workers before. (They are now retired).

Much of the blue-collar jobs in Singapore are filled by foreign workers (NOT foreign talent). These are "low value-added" jobs which don't pay very well, about $800-$1500, may require working shifts, overtime, long hours, working under uncomfortable conditions, etc.

A simple calculation, on transportation and food alone:
Transportation cost: $2 per trip = $4
Food: $3.50 per meal x 3 meals per day = $10.50
Per week cost (6-day work week): $87
Per month cost: $348

If the salary is $1000, take-home pay after deducting 20% CPF would be $800.

We still need to eat on Sundays so that's $10 x 4 weeks per month = $40 Utilities = $100 at least That leaves us with $312 to pay for insurance, medical bills, savings, clothes, toiletries, home repair, etc etc. It's difficult even for a frugal person with no family to survive. Add parents and children into the picture and it's easy to see why Singaporeans cannot take on such low-wage jobs.

It's not an issue of Singaporeans being fussy. The cost of arrange for childcare, transportation cost, cost of buying food, etc, may be more than the employment income!

But blue-collar workers are very important to our economy and our overall sense of well-being.

Many Singaporeans feel uneasy about foreign drivers operating our public buses. If you've been to China, you'll know that over there, the motorists have the right of way over pedestrians. So a bus driver from China is most likely going to drive with that same attitude in Singapore if they have not adapted to our road culture. I had to run to avoid getting hit when a rubbish collection truck turning left sped across the pedestrian crossing.

Another example: when I order teh C pua seow (tea with evaporated milk, half hot) from a Singaporean, I get exactly that. I tried ordering that from a China worker. She said she will put in a piece of ice. I asked whether she made the teh C thicker than normal, she said No. So I told her not to put the ice. She commented that pua seow means to put a piece of ice. My friend said he can no longer order Coke Light at coffee shops because China workers can't understand or pronounce "Light". Most foreigners won't care whether customers are happy. They're just here to make some money and bring it back to their home countries. They wouldn't care whether tourists keep coming back in Singapore. They'll be happier if tourists avoid Singapore and instead go to the other countries.

On the other hand, services operated by Singaporeans (or those who are accustomed to local needs and culture) are generally good. I feel that the service offered by our local taxi drivers and taxi companies are excellent. Taxi companies work within the constraints of hiring only qualified drivers. They think about improving the drivers' productivity, lowering the number of phone operators required through the use of technology. Many taxis are equipped with GPS. To book a taxi, I don't even have to speak with a phone operator. I can track exactly where the taxi is on my phone (can view the location of the taxi on the map) so I don't have to call and ask whether the taxi is coming or not. Taxi drivers always return your change instead of pocketing a few cents. If they lose their way, it's common for them not to charge the full metered fare. They get off their butts to help you get your bag in and out of the boot. Of course, there are always black sheep but the majority of taxi drivers here are good.

We should stop allowing these low-wage workers to come in to SG, stop renewing their work permits, and eventually the salaries will naturally (through demand and supply forces) be raised an acceptable level for Singaporeans and people will have greater incentive to innovate and become more efficient.

A good example would be machines that automatically clean your floors. We can have similar devices to clean tables in food courts and to clean our windows (many maid have fell of out of windows). We can have conveyor belts to load used plates into dish washers, machines to iron clothes, self-driving cars - and many more ideas to reduce manual labour.


Anonymous said...

You have to blame Singaporeans lah. They are so arrogan they think they are superior lah, and don't want to do blue collar job.

So garment bring in all the Bengalis, indis, Indos, pinos etc
to run Singapore ah!

David said...


Interesting to find simlarities on this topic between SG and the States.

Many so called low pay entry level jobs are worked here by recent immigrants, many arriving illegally.

Some say that citizens do not want such jobs because of low wages. There is no argreement whether this is true or not. Facts can be found that support both POVs.

When wages a controlled by government fiat then competition goes away. Any command economy is on a very tough road to support itself over the decades.

Citizens come to expect certian services without considering the price tag for most services continues to rise. Entry level workers often save income to start a business, or send as much of their income to their homeland to build a business at a later time.

Supply an demand if allowed to work will adjust wages and job demands. It will not be long before city buses will travel routes automatically.

Robots that clean floors are available, although it must be said such devices cannot rival a humand controlled floor cleaning.


Anonymous said...

Heard from a friend that a popular "American brand" coffee place employed a 'Pinoy' Restaurant manager and subsequently the entire crew consists on Pinoys! Of course he will not hire Singaporeans anymore, that's where all our jobs go to

Leo said...


Foreign workers on work permits, "S" or "E" Pass do not have 20% deducted from their pay for CPF contributions.

Employers "have" to pay a monthly levy (for work permit holders) to a blood-sucking Ministry of Manpower. Like all things economic; employers factor this into the worker's pay !

Contrary to 'anonymous' remarks about the arrogance of Singaporeans; most shun blue collar jobs because of the poor working conditions. Examples are; dangerous environments - shipyards, building sites, even factory shop-floors where noxious chemicals are present. The welfare report-book labels most (not all) employers at 'F' or D-minus; they are primarily focus on making money at the cost of their employees' health.

Our Government has sacrificed the interests of blue collar workers for as long as I know.

The generation that build our first roads, hospitals, schools, etc, can hardly retire when they reach their 60s or 70s. That is why you see them clearing tables and moping floors at Hawker Centres. This generation used up their savings for their children's upbringing.

But when their kids grow up and form own families, they have to pay $400,000 for a 3 bedroom flat, $100,000 for a Toyota Corolla, etc, on a combined salary of say $5,000 monthly; and cannot even give their aged parents any support because all their available cash goes to pay for the mortgage, car loans etc.

The current generation of blue collar workers have been well and truly screwed by the Government's open-door policy for cheap foreign labour. This has kept salaries low for so many decades that entire generations of Singaporeans could not afford to upgrade themselves. They spent all their working hours on Overtime just to make ends meet.

Those too stupid to realise the repercussions of this Government's past policies, continue to vote for a party that boast frequently (there plenty of compliant journalists in Singapore) about how Governments in other countries praise/envy their track record.

The above is for the better understanding of David and his US compatriots of how wonderful life is - in the Little Red Dot.