4 Necessary Steps to Avoid Being Underpaid in Singapore

4 Necessary Steps to Avoid Being Underpaid in Singapore

So your boss refuses to let you leave the office before he does, which doesn’t really matter because you’re doing the work of 10 people anyway thanks to the manpower crunch. The least you could do is to ensure you’re getting paid a decent amount.

Now, we’re not saying you should be one of those entitled people who expects to get paid gajillions for doing a crappy job at work. But if you’re like this poor, abused guy and receiving the short end of the stick while being paid peanuts, here’s how to ensure it doesn’t happen to you again.


1. Know the market rate for a job before accepting it

It’s challenging running a business in Singapore, and while there are many companies who will pay a fair wage, many local SMEs still try their best to pay their employees as little as they can get away with while trying to squeeze as much work out of them as possible.

Protect yourself against being hired by an employer like that by always being well-informed about the market rate for any prospective job. Go into an interview knowing what an acceptable wage range will be. Sure, you might get offered something that’s a little above or below what you’re expecting. But at least you’ll be able to negotiate confidently knowing what your bottom line is.

You’d be surprised, but a lot of people go for interviews without actually knowing what they should be expecting. Don’t just ask one industry friend and take what he says as the word of God. Ask several people and do research online so you have a truly accurate picture of how much you should be getting paid for a particular job.


2. Learn how to negotiate properly

According to Eunice Tan, managing consultant at recruitment firm JadeClover, many job candidates have no idea how to negotiate their salaries properly, and because of that recruiters prefer to always be the ones to negotiate on their behalf.

Just knowing how much you’d like to get paid is only half the challenge. Before you even think of stepping into that interview room, please do some research on how to negotiate your salary properly.

You should never divulge to the employer your expected salary right off the bat—always get them to provide the first figure. Never take the first offer you receive, and never mention salary too early—the longer you wait (ideally you will delay discussions about salary till the second interview or later), the better your chances are of getting a higher salary.


3. Know when to ask for a higher salary or jump ship

You might have started out at a company with a decent salary, but if it stops increasing after that first year, you might be in trouble. In the last five years, the official inflation rate has been about 4%, but the real prices of goods and services have actually risen even more. So if your salary isn’t able to hedge against inflation, it’s time to ask for a raise—or leave.

Eunice advises against staying in the same company for more than 3 years, for the simple reason that many private sector employers only increase salaries by about 2% to 3% per year, and some even withhold increments for more than two years. By contrast, changing companies usually enables you to raise your salary by at least 10% to 15%.

Review your salary every year and ask yourself whether you’re being underpaid. When the time comes, speak to your boss, and if he’s not amenable to increasing your salary, it’s time to start looking elsewhere.


4. Work hard to make yourself a quality hire

Let’s be honest with ourselves here—lots of employees are getting paid peanuts, and they kinda deserve to be because they’re just lousy workers, period.

You know that at some point you’re going to have to be proactive about your career and take steps to increase your own salary, rather than just waiting for your boss to notice you exist and hopefully decide to pay you more.

Before that happens, it’s your responsibility to work towards becoming a quality hire. That means trying your best to become better at your job, upgrading your skills where necessary and taking the initiative to learn all there is to learn at work—rather than just passively sitting at your desk and half-heartedly completing all the tasks that get dumped on your desk.

When you’re confident that you don’t suck at your job, that’s when you can go out there and ask to be paid what you’re worth.

Do you have any advice for Singaporeans who are underpaid? Tell us in the comments!