04 March 2011

Salaries of Civil Servants and Political Appointments

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean told Parliament on 2 March 2011 that Civil Service wages had to be competitive to attract and retain able and committed officers.  Salaries were therefore benchmarked against the private sector.  Civil Service remuneration fell during the recent recession.

Mr Teo, who is also the Minister-in-Charge of the Civil Service, was responding to Member of Parliament Jessica Tan (People's Action Party), who raised the issue during the Budget debate.

Member of Parliament Low Thia Khiang (The Workers' Party) had earlier observed that there was a 30 per cent increase in FY2010 in the estimated salaries for political appointments.

Mr Teo said that the Singapore economy recovered strongly in 2010 and the labour market had tightened.  The resignation rate for the Civil Service rose from 3.5 per cent in 2009 to 4.7 per cent in 2010.  Resignations in the Management Executive Service rose in 2010, with attrition rate highest at 17 per cent for the younger graduate officers.  (Although not stated explicitly, these turnover rates are probably annual turnover rates.)

The average monthly resignation rate for Singapore's labour force was 2.1 per cent in Q3 2010, and 1.8 per cent in 2009.  The average monthly resignation rate for professionals, managers, executives and technicians was 1.6 per cent in Q3 2010.

Hudson Highland Group found that 23 per cent of companies it had surveyed in Singapore experienced staff turnover during a six-month period (probably Q2 and Q3 2010) in excess of 10 per cent, but this was lower than that in other markets surveyed in Asia.  39 per cent of companies surveyed experienced staff turnover between 6 per cent and 10 per cent.  The remaining 38 per cent of companies surveyed experienced staff turnover 5 per cent and below.  (Although not stated explicitly, these turnover rates are probably six-month turnover rates.)

Employees resign for a variety of reasons.

The prospect of getting higher pay elsewhere is one of the most common contributors to staff turnover at all levels, from executives and generously paid professionals in high-stress positions to entry-level workers in relatively undemanding jobs, according to Singapore Human Resource Institute.  However, money is often not the root cause of turnover, even when it is a factor in an employee's decision to quit.  High turnover persists in certain jobs and organisations, and money is a convenient and sometimes compelling justification.  Turnover tends to be higher in organisations where employees feel they are taken advantage of, where they feel undervalued or ignored, and where they feel helpless or unimportant.

It may even be good when some employees leave, allowing the organisation to recruit new blood.

One can probably understand Mr Teo's remarks regarding resignations from the Civil Service and the consequent need to pay civil servants competitive salaries, but what has that to do with salaries for holders of political appointments, which was the thrust of Mr Low's observation?


1.  Speech by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Minister in Charge of the Civil Service, Committee of Supply, 2 March 2011.

2.  The Hudson Report: Employment and HR Trends October-December 2010, Singapore Hudson Highland Group, Inc.

3.  "Staff Turnover Not Always Motivated by Better Pay: SHRI" ChannelNewsAsia.com (28 Oct 2010).

4.  Labour Market, Third Quarter 2010 Ministry of Manpower.  The average monthly resignation rate during a calendar quarter is defined as the average number of persons who resigned in a month during the quarter divided by the average number of employees in the establishment.  The annual figure is the simple average of the quarterly figures.

1 comment:

  1. Well...Civil Servants WITHOUT political connections deserve good
    salary...and all Political Appointments should be STOPPED ..so that
    Civil Service will be a people-caring service and not controlled by
    any ruling political parties !!