Singapore’s restructuring of low-wage work: Have cleaning job conditions improved?
Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 January 2023
Singapore’s Progressive Wage Model, introduced in 2012 and mandatory in the cleaning industry since 2015, is a skills- and productivity-based approach to redesigning jobs and restructuring wages in the largely outsourced cleaning, security and landscaping sectors. Focusing on cleaning work in the food and beverage industry, this case study examines some early outcomes of this national drive to reduce wage inequality by improving the pay and conditions of commodified work in a sector subject to outsourcing-based cost competition. Based on interviews with cleaners, supervisors and managers, the findings suggest that in general, government and the trade union and employers’ association have worked together, to set wages and conditions transparently. Nevertheless, enforcement issues mean that cleaners remain vulnerable. They have limited information about their employment benefits and face various types of poor conditions, some sanctioned by and others in violation of labour laws. These vulnerabilities have structural roots, including rent imbalances and cheap sourcing, factors that commodify jobs. The implementation of the Progressive Wage Model may have helped de-commodify cleaning jobs for Singaporeans and permanent residents, but such outcomes are still dependent on non-systemic and unenforceable factors such as the kindness of individual supervisors. While a promising start has been made, Singapore’s initial efforts to improve incomes and conditions in low-wage work will nevertheless require stronger regulatory commitment.
- The Economic and Labour Relations Review , Volume 29 , Issue 3: Work and well-being: Setting and upholding standards , September 2018 , pp. 308 - 327
- © The Author(s) 2018