I never realised that BG(NS) Tan Chuan Jin had taken a leaf from Minister Khaw Boon Wan’s book but apparently he has. Full post (titled ‘Singaporeans @ the heart of our workforce’, link here) from the Ministry of Manpower’s blog.

From his writing, it appears that the good BG has a very soft approach that makes it seem like he’s a very understanding person (as opposed to the “kee chiu” BG who sounds like he’s still wearing green when he’s changed to white). However, as nice as it may seem, methinks that the good BG needs to stop patting his colleagues and charges on the back:

Our last decade has been challenging. There were 3 recessions, the last being a massive financial meltdown from which a number of countries have not fully recovered from. Economically, we managed to navigate our way as a country. But a common refrain is: “how have Singaporeans fared?”

Looking through the data, we’ve seen good employment rates for our citizens with 9 in 10 employed in full time jobs in 2010. They’re also better qualified with 1 in 2 holding PMET jobs compared to 42% in 2001. One in 4 are now degree holders up from 14% a decade ago, or 41% if you include diploma and professional qualifications.
Median income grew by 30% nominally or 11% in real terms in the last decade, while median monthly household income from work per household member (citizen-headed households) grew by 40% nominally and 20% in real terms over the same period. Considering the backdrop of the three recessions, this is not bad at all.
In fact, there have been several recent articles which highlighted that the real incomes of US (The Economist) and European (Financial Times) households have been stagnating in the past decade.
First, some quibbles. Does his 9 in 10 Singaporeans refer to the Singaporean labour force or just Singaporeans? If it’s just the Singapore labour force, then what are the numbers for the employable but discouraged and have stopped looking for work? While 9 in 10 may sound good to laymen, every Econs JC student knows that the definition of labour force does not include  those ‘not seeking for work’. These include those that have given up looking for work. For example, if there were originally 20 people in the labour force but 10 have given up looking for work due to bad economic conditions and now only 9 are employed, it would still meet his definition of 9 in 10 Singaporeans are employed.
Next, if median income only rose 11% in real terms over the last decade, that means that half of the all people employed saw even worse increases. (Leong Sze Hian picked up on this too). Half! Effectively, half of all Singaporeans’ lives have not improved much (since they could only buy 1 extra hamburger after 10 years of work).
Then there is the dasterdedly statistic of 20% increase (in real terms) in median monthly household income from work per household member. That statistic only tells me that times got tougher so an extra member had to go out and work. I’m not sure why the good BG is proud of that. Maybe he’s proud that an extra person HAD to work and managed to find a job. Hurray~
At least he goes on to say:
However, I’m concerned that our growth has not been very even. In particular, I feel that the situation facing low-income Singaporeans at the 20th percentile of incomes is worrying. Real income growth is flat after accounting for inflation. Even if one considers the fact that this problem is not atypical when comparing with other countries, we should aim to do more.

Encouragingly, their incomes are boosted when government transfers and schemes like Workfare kicks in. We need to continue to do this and to go further.

Income inequality is another area of concern. Looking at our Gini coefficient, it is very similar to major cities in the world.

I’m not sure about where he got his Gini comparisons from but according to Wiki (link here), when I sorted the list by ‘CIA Gini  as a percentage’, the five names above and below us are: (more unequal)  The Gambia, Zimbabwe, Dominican Republic, Sri Lanka; (less unequal) Costa Rica, Ecuador, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal. Not exactly what I’d call major cities in the world. Besides, with the kind of money we pay our ministers, I don’t think we (as in taxpayers) expect to be on the part of the list. I subscribe to capitalism but a citizen’s quality of life is the job of the Government.

Although this is the second day I’m posting about BG Tan Chuan Jin, I’m not out to bash him. It was purely a coincidence that I came across this right after yesterday’s post. The good BG does genuinely seem like a nice guy. I just wish he’d stop presenting us with half a glass of water and keep telling us that the glass is half-full because the obvious flip-side is that the glass is half-empty. Just get down to work and give us a full glass of water already.
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