$3,000 Per Month Dishwasher Job, But Pay Isn’t Everything.


Ryan Ong



Honest show of hands now. How many of you wanted to quit your job and become a dishwasher? Yeah, I thought so. Granted, $3k is a lot of washing plates, but don’t send your resume just yet. There’s no such thing as a free lunch (and that saying’s twice as funny when applied to a restaurant); and in this article, we’ll explain why the pay cheque isn’t all you should look at.


The $3,000 a Month Dishwasher Job

The job offer was from Sakae sushi, and came to light after a radio interview. Sakae’s CEO Douglas Foo implied he’d had it with staffing issues, and that Singaporean workers were hard to find. Then came the offer of $3,000 a month for dishwashers.

Seems like a great offer. But as with any job, you need to look beyond the pay. In fact, I dare say your $2,000 a month junior sales position (or equivalent) is still a better deal. Here’s why:

  • The hours involved
  • Job security and leverage
  • Advancement prospects
  • Full job scope and benefits


A Quick Note About Food & Beverage


Chef's Hat on a Skull
Only three line cooks died. Pretty easy night.


The F&B industry is a world of its own.

Long hours are a staple of this industry. It’s not uncommon for staff to see 12 – 15 hour work days. Most F&B workers have one rest day a week, because restaurants won’t close on weekends and holidays. It’s gruelling, stressful, and poorly paid.

When I’m asked if I’ll work in F&B again, my answer is always: “I’d rather wipe my ass with sandpaper.” Not because I disrespect the industry, but because I’m too much of a wuss to handle it. As are most elite commandos. I have nothing but awe and respect for the people who survive F&B.

And within the strict context of F&B only, Sakae Sushi’s job offer is great. But if you’re not from the F&B world, let me explain why your lower-salaried job might still be better:


1. The Hours Involved


Night Rider Busses
Night rider line? Ah, my bedroom’s arrived!


The dishwasher job is from 10.30am to 10.30pm, with breaks in-between. It’s also a six day work week.

But so what. The work is easy, so the long hours are tolerable, right?

About that: When your job involves repetitive tasks, like washing dishes or folding boxes for most of the day, you might suffer from even more stress. Expect depression, irritability, and fatigue.

If you’ve done guard duty or factory work, you know what I’m talking about. A web editor or tech-support guy might keep equally long hours (for about the same pay); but the difference is variety. Their minds stay interested and stimulated.

And obviously, the long hours have a social cost. It’ll be hard to maintain a romantic relationship, keep in touch with the family, or hang out with friends. Shaolin monks will have a better social life than you. Is that worth the pay cheque?


2. Job Security and Leverage


Lion in Singapore zoo
So fire the zookeeper and feed it yourself. How hard can it be?


$3,000 a month beats the salary of most layout artists, pre-school teachers, and furniture builders.

But those professionals have job security that dishwashers don’t. They take a lot of time and money to train, whereas dishwashers…let’s just say you’re qualified if you can turn on a tap. I’m not trying to demean dish-washing or any type of honest labour; I’m just saying replacement isn’t hard.

And in bad times, pay cuts and retrenchment affect replaceable employees first. Keep this in mind, whether your job is washing dishes or putting screws on nuts.

There’s also the issue of leverage: The less replaceable you are, the more you can bargain for raises, ask for benefits, etc. As for more on how to do this, follow us on Facebook for career articles.


3. Advancement Prospects


Office Party
Congratulations on your promotion. And we don’t hate you. Now eat this specific slice of cake.


A career path might start you off below $3,000 a month. But look at the ultimate ceiling: It’s exponentially higher than what you’re earning now.

On the other hand, you have jobs that  with a higher starting pay, but don’t grow beyond it.

$3,000 a month is probably the most a dishwasher will ever make. And a dishwasher is what he’ll stay, even 10 years down the road. The same goes for certain jobs like tele-sales and valets.

If you’re in a position where advancement is unlikely (e.g. you have nothing beyond PSLE), this is not a concern: Just grab the high-paying position now, and spend money on self-upgrading. But if you’re climbing from the bottom of the career ladder, don’t be sidetracked by the bigger pay cheque.


4. Full Job Scope and Benefits


Sprained foot
I can’t write articles this week. Serious injury.


$3,000 a month isn’t just for washing dishes. It involves cleaning duties as well (In a restaurant, job scopes are necessarily wide). So consider the expectations: Scrubbing down a kitchen is painful, back-breaking work. As is cleaning out fridges.

In fact, when any job offers unusually high pay, you should expect a wide job scope. Sometimes, companies try to save money by compressing two different roles into one (e.g. combining the role of marketing with public relations). To compensate, the pay is a bit higher.

This seldom works out well. When you have the responsibility of two people, slip-ups and mistakes become more common. And when a job scope is loosely defined to begin with, you can expect it to keep expanding; this is how secretaries can end up doubling as accountants, or vice versa.

And let’s not forget the benefits: Does the job include medical insurance? Transport claims? A dental plan? If not, you’ll find that most your “big” pay cheque is taken up by these overheads. Deducting such expenses, a huge pay cheque might end up being just average or worse.

Image Credits:
Marijn de Vries Hoogerwerff, Neeta Lind, Mohamed.shaaz, Chi King, WhyOhGee, bradleygee

Do you look beyond salary when job hunting? Comment and tell us what else matters to you!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.