Auntie Susan is a familiar face at a coffee shop in Punggol. This coffee shop, which is also known for its soy sauce chicken, is where she can be spotted on a daily basis clearing tables while talking up a storm with the coffee shop regulars.
At 71, Auntie Susan is a proponent of active aging – where seniors keep their minds and bodies active while contributing meaningfully both socially and economically.
Due to her having mild dementia, she was encouraged by her doctor to keep herself engaged and this was what prompted her to look for a job near her home to occupy her time. Even though she is on her feet a lot, she sees it as a way to keep active.
“I like to keep myself occupied, at least I keep myself active instead of just staying at home. When I work I get to socialise with people, make new friends.”
As a coffee shop attendant, Auntie Susan takes home about $1,400 a month, which is currently above the baseline wage floor set out for table-top cleaners at $1,339 under the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) for cleaning sector. She also receives the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS), a scheme that supplements the wages and CPF savings of older low-wage workers and encourages them to stay employed.
Currently living with her son, Auntie Susan does not need to work to contribute to the household expenses but does so because it keeps her mind active.
Her son, 38-year-old Mr Ong shared that his mother keeping active is good for her mental and physical health. Being a very sociable person, she also often gets treats from coffee shop tenants and customers and enjoys her time at the coffee shop.
Auntie Susan diligently saves her pay while giving the occasional treat to her family and friends as well as putting some money towards holidays.
“With my income, I like to give my family and friends a treat at a nice restaurant and I can save up for rainy days and go on small trips occasionally.”
Indeed, the WIS scheme has helped many lower-wage workers like Auntie Susan uplift their income through additional cash payouts and CPF top-ups. This ensures workers take personal responsibility in contributing economically as well as plan for their long-term retirement needs.
The CPF top-up component of the scheme also helps lower-wage workers not miss out on CPF’s compounding interest. Introduced in 2007, this scheme has given out over $7.8 billion to roughly 930,000 recipients.
In this year’s National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has announced the three recommendations developed by the Tripartite Workgroup to improve the prospects of lower-wage workers.
The PWM will be extended to more sectors, starting with retail and food services and waste management sectors in 2022. First introduced by the NTUC in 2012 to uplift the lower-wage workers, the PWM aims to help workers earn better wages through skills upgrading and productivity. With this announcement, the PWM will also cover more lower-wage workers beyond the existing four sectors, namely the cleaning, security, landscape, and lift and escalator sector.
Companies that are hiring foreign workers will also be required to pay all their local workers a lowest qualifying salary (LQS).
Additionally, companies that are paying their workers Progressive Wages (PW) will also be accredited with a PW Mark, to help consumers identify companies as responsible employers who are paying all their workers decent wages.
For a start, PM Lee shared that the public sector would take the lead by purchasing only from such businesses.
With the enhanced support, it is certainly heartening to know that more lower-wage workers like Auntie Susan will be uplifted and hopefully, they can continue to gain ground and progress faster as Singapore moves forward as a Nation!