Singaporeans Are Paid Much Lower Than You Think

Singaporeans Are Paid Much Lower Than You Think
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What you need to know

Workers in Singapore are paid much lower than workers in other high GDP per capita countries like Switzerland and Norway.

The Singapore People’s Action Party (PAP) government likes to boast that the country has one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world. 

According to the World Bank, Singapore ranks 9th internationally in GDP per capita. This has led to some Singaporeans to believe that they also earn one of the highest wages in the world.

This is an illusion. 


The PAP government has talked about attaining the Swiss standard of living in Singapore. It also compares itself with the Nordic countries. Indeed, Switzerland, Norway, and Denmark rank as the 4th, 6th, and 11th richest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita. 

The implication is that Singaporeans would also earn similar wages as workers in these wealthy European countries.

However, comparing Singapore with Switzerland and Nordic countries like Norway and Denmark, Singaporeans earn the lowest wages. 

In fact, workers in Singapore earning the median wage do not even earn the minimum wage of professional cleaners in Switzerland, Norway, and Denmark. Singapore’s median wage workers receive only half to a third of the median wage in these other countries. 

Outsourced resident cleaners in Singapore earn only S$1,236 (US$900) or only a third or a fifth of the cleaners in these other countries. 

In other words, Singaporeans are paid much less than their peers, and are not paid on par with their GDP per capita.

The comparison in this graphic uses the minimum wages of professional cleaners in Switzerland and the Nordic countries, and that of outsourced resident cleaners in Singapore for comparing minimum wage. Median wage data for Switzerland and the Nordic countries is obtained from Eurostat using 2014’s figures as these are the latest available figures. Median wage data for Singapore is obtained from the Ministry of Manpower.

However, do you know which countries Singapore’s wages are on par with? It might surprise you. 

The outsourced resident cleaners in Singapore make about the minimum wage in Malta. They also earn less than Spain and half that of Italy’s professional cleaners. Singapore’s median wage is also only at the level of Italy and Spain. 

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Italy, Spain, and Malta have GDPs per capita of only half that of Singapore’s.

While Singaporeans think that they are as rich as the wealthy European countries like the Nordics and Germany, the reality is that Singaporeans earn wages as low as countries like Italy, Spain, Malta, and Slovenia. 

Minimum wage data is obtained from Eurostat. Data on the minimum wage of professional cleaners in Italy is obtained from Eurofound.

While Singaporeans have not seen their own wages catch up with the GDP per capita, Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong and the PAP ministers pay themselves the highest political salaries in the world, raking in the taxes contributed by Singapore’s underpaid workers. 

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Not only that, while the salaries of the political leaders in other countries correspond to their GDPs per capita, the salary of Singapore’s prime minister is instead way over what he should be paid – he should only be earning between US$200,000 and US$500,000 if he is to be on par with the other countries at a similar level of GDP per capita (Switzerland, Norway and Denmark).

But perhaps he should only be earning between US$50,000 and US$130,000 – the level of Italy, Spain, and Malta. After all, Singaporean workers’ wages correspond to these countries. Instead, his current salary is 17 to 44 times what he should be paid.


Singapore’s GDP growth has not benefited Singaporeans, while it has been a boon for PAP ministers benefiting immensely off of the wages of Singaporeans, via the taxes they pay. 

Singaporeans have also held the illusion that they earn high wages. The truth is that their wages are as low as countries with only half the GDP per capita of Singapore. 

Moreover, because Singaporeans have to pay among the highest costs in the world and still have to pay a similar tax wedge as the other advanced economies, this means that the wages of Singaporeans are so much more depleted that they would also have low purchasing powers compared to the other similarly wealthy advanced economy countries. 

Singaporeans are actually considered poor by their GDP per capita standard.

READ NEXT: How Many Workers Can the Salaries of Singapore’s Ministers Pay For?  

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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