Ask any Singaporean on the streets if they’re making enough money and you’ll be met with a sneer and a cynical remark. Sure, many are just being complainers. But with no minimum wage in Singapore, it is actually possible to be gainfully employed full-time on a wage that would have you starving to death or bankrupt.
So how do you know if you’re really getting the short end of the stick or if you’ve just been infected by the Complaining Singaporean bug? Here are 3 signs you might actually need to quit your job or risk financial ruin.
1. You’ve cut corners to the best of your ability but still can’t save
Out of all the Singaporeans who can’t afford to save or are drowning in debt, not all are in that state because they don’t earn enough.
That real estate agent who appeared in the news for racking up credit card debt while living the high life, or that middle income couple who turned to loansharks to pay for their extravagant wedding certainly didn’t get to where they were because they were earning too little, but because they were spending too much. If that sounds like you, no matter how much you’re earning, you’ll find a way to spend it. It would therefore be more prudent to work on cutting your spending before increasing your salary.
You know that you should look for a new job if you’ve already tried downsizing your budget to be as small as you can comfortably survive on (poisoning yourself with instant noodles at every meal doesn’t count as comfortable), getting rid of unnecessary expenses like gym memberships and magazine subscriptions, stopping spending ridiculous amounts on tuition for your kids and bringing lunch to work instead of eating out. If you’ve really tried your best and you still find that you’re living from paycheck to paycheck, it is time to look for a new job, unless you can reasonably expect your salary to increase at a rate that can significantly outpace inflation.
Of course, a salary that is reasonable to one person may not be to another. If you have a family of five to feed or live in rental accommodation, a salary of $1,000 is going to have you dumpster diving, while someone who gets to live with their family for free can probaby still get by or even save a bit.
2. You are working full-time but still can’t survive on your wages
We’ve all heard stories of people who have managed to juggle two or three jobs to make ends meet and emerged triumphant at the end of it. But if all three of your jobs don’t pay you a living wage, it’d probably be smarter to try to replace your main job with one that pays a higher wage before taking on ever more work.
In many countries, the minimum wage aims to ensure that everyone can make enough to survive. But let’s face it, in Singapore it is totally possible to work full-time and still go bankrupt if you don’t have a family you can fall back on.
For instance, many full-time workers in the service and hospitality industry earn salaries in the low $1,000s. If you can’t live for free with your family, renting even the tiniest HDB room in an inacessible area is going to cost more than half your salary before CPF cuts.
If that sounds like you, it would probably be wise to look for a new job, either by banking on your experience to obtain a more senior position or switching to a more lucrative industry.
3. Your employer is paying you well below market rate
It pains me to say this, but based on the many horror stories from friends who’ved worked for local SMEs, staying for too long in one job can depress your wages a hell lot. It seems that many employers are loathe to increase their employees’ salaries, preferring instead to keep mum and hope they’ll just continue working without noticing that their pay is getting eroded by inflation.
Of course, there are many reasons to stay in a job that pays you slightly below market rate, including good work life balance and a positive work environment. In fact, if you can afford it, it can be a downright fantastic idea to sacrifice a little bit of money in order to not want to gouge your own eyes out every morning.
But if you’re being paid grossly below market rate, your boss is probably either waiting for you to leave or to ask for a raise, failing which he’ll just quietly continue paying you a pittance. In that case, it’s time to have a heart-to-heart with the powers that be, and then to look for greener pastures if they give you the shaft.
Have you ever had to leave a job because they were paying you an unconscionably low amount? Share your experiences in the comments!