The future according to sushi

Sakae Sushi’s $3,000 cleaner-and-dishwasher job has many of the characteristics of poor human resources design so prevalent in Singapore. Even if they manage to fill the ten positions that the company has, I suspect it is not a sustainable solution. Employees will not stay long or will call in sick with little notice, causing disruption to operations. Singapore bosses often pin blame on employees’ poor work attitude but few bosses interrogate their own attitudes towards their staff and their own limitations when it comes to designing jobs.

From various press reports, Sakae Sushi’s job — which apparently has received 300 enquiries since it was headlined in a Chinese newspaper story — is like this:

Yesterday, the company gave more details while urging only “serious” applicants to contact it. “We would like to emphasise that this position includes other cleaning responsibilities, not just dishwashing, and is very physically demanding,” it said in a Facebook post.

Brand and communications manager Gregg Lewis said the dishwashers need to work 12 hours a day, six days a week – from 10.30am to 10.30pm with breaks. This differed slightly from the nine hours a day that Sakae Sushi chief Douglas Foo had told the media previously.

— Straits Times, 14 Sept 2012, $3k a month to wash dishes? They want the job, by Goh Chin Lian

Earlier, Douglas Foo had mentioned that the $3,000 package includes overtime pay for the extra hours. One presumes that the employer’s Central Provident Fund contribution is on top of that.

Some online comments have queried if the total hours contravene the Employment Act. Foo said they do not. Taking him at his word, I did some back-of-the envelope calculations, and found that the only way the job would fit within the maximum hours permitted by the law would be if the employee, despite having to be on station for 12 hours a day, six days a week, gets about  two hours of breaks each workday — perhaps an hour-long meal break and two half-hour tea breaks. His net working duration would be ten hours a day.

As you can see from the calculation above, after deducting the 44 normal-pay hours per week as provided for in the Employment Act, the balance 69.6 hours a month would be considered overtime hours, a shade beneath the legal maximum of 72 overtime hours a month.

This works out to a basic salary of $1,941 a month (for the 44 hours) which looks quite good for a cleaner-and-dishwasher position, by today’s standards. However, as I will argue below, it may not be long before we consider this below par.

However, what mystifies me is why the company thinks this is the best design they can come up with. When they design a job that is so physically demanding, they immediately reduce the pool of available candidates.  How many people would take a job that means wet hands and being on one’s feet almost 12 hours a day? The job is also destructive of a person’s social life and emotional wellbeing by being so demanding of his time.

Has the company invested in dish-washing machines? The absence of any mention of such equipment in its public communications seems to suggest not, and that it wants its employees to wash dishes the old-fashioned way. [Correction: I see from a video of the Chinese program on which Foo appeared that he described the job as one of scraping off food from chinaware and putting the plates and bowls into dishwashing machines. ]

Moreover, why has it not considered splitting each job into two? It would mean hiring two workers each grossing 36 hours a week, at perhaps $1,500 a month. Wouldn’t that be more attractive?

* * * * *

The Sakae Sushi news story gained traction because it tapped into a wider sense that some jobs are paying too little. This “too little” argument actually has two flavours. One is that, given our cost of living, it is morally troubling that any worker, local or foreign, should be paid less than a “living wage”, but I don’t think this is the sense at work here.

The other, quite different flavour, is that wages for this kind of job need to rise substantially to attract Singaporeans to them. It may be quite alright to pay foreigners such low wages, but if we have to attract Singaporeans, significantly higher pay is necessary. This issue comes up as the government, in response to cries that there are too many foreigners in Singapore, tightens quotas for foreign employees in various industries.

Despite being very vocal about the increasing numbers of foreign workers in our midst and clamouring for a reduction, Singaporeans are slow to see the implications of that — which is that costs must necessarily rise.

Foreign workers are particularly numerous in jobs that are menial or require a lot of personal human attention, largely a result of the fact that Singaporeans shun jobs in construction, domestic work, retail, food service and sanitation. Even the healthcare and hospitality industries are finding it hard to recruit locals. Automating these service jobs may go some way to reducing the needed numbers, but let’s face it, it  is very hard to do. The only way we’re going to have significantly reduced numbers of such foreign workers in our midst is if we pay enough to entice Singaporeans to them. In fact, we may anyway need to pay more to keep attracting foreigners, when their own countries begin to develop and they find more job opportunities at home.

Our ideas of “job’s worth” is probably out of date. We need to start thinking of any work that involves human attention as being a high-cost one. Your ten-minute $10 haircut will need to be around $20. A restaurant with table service will need to add $30 more to the tab per diner to cover the cost of wait staff. Even a food court that has busboys to clear your tables may perhaps need to charge $5 entry — before you even pay for your food — to cover the cost of the busboys. Plumbers?  Electricians? Perhaps $100 per hour.

And the whole concept of live-in domestic maids is fit for the dustbin of history. Singaporeans should start imagining having to pay $1,200 – $1,500 a month for a household help who comes in 8 hours a day for 6 days a week.

There is nothing absolute about any job’s worth. It’s all a matter of supply and demand.

What it means is that sit-down jobs or high-status jobs that Singaporeans prize will lose relative market value. Salaries may not fall, but a bigger and bigger portion of salaries will have to be expended to buy human-attention services such as domestic help, food catering, cleaning of the estate, renovation, manicure and clothes alteration, and leaving us feeling poorer (unless we’re the ones doing those jobs). Our idea about the hierarchy of jobs by value will have to change. If you want to earn big bucks, stop chasing an academic qualification; work with your hands.

* * * * *

Several trends have contributed to the present state of affairs where we have over one million low-wage foreign workers in Singapore.

To begin with, any economy (given today’s technology) will surely need workers doing manual or human-attention work, e.g. cleaning, construction, retail. Diagrammatically, I show this group in blue below:

But over the last 20 years, large numbers of foreign talent were brought in to grow the economy (see Diagram 2).

However, these skilled and professional workers and their families created a demand for more low-skill workers. Homes had to be built. More shops and restaurants opened. More cleaning was needed. More hospital beds had to be added. Inevitably, with the growth in the skilled and professional foreign population came growth in the low-skill population too. It was made worse with no attention paid to automation and productivity improvement.

Diagram 3 shows the situation as it is today, a society with a smallish kernel of local workforce, much padded by foreigners at all levels.

Our low birthrate and relatively good education system also meant that we had a particular shortage of young adults willing to do physically demanding work that characterised many low-end jobs. Thus the narrowing of the bottom of the local pyramid in Diagram 3.

We see the result in many situations today: foreigners serving foreigners. Walk into a restaurant, and you may see Filipino waiters taking orders from Australian diners. Look at a condominium building site and you’ll see Indian and Bangladeshi workers building homes that would later be occupied by a new family from Beijing, and cleaned by a domestic worker from Indonesia.

But what the diagrams imply is how difficult it is to reduce our dependence on foreigners. Diagram 2 is unrealistic. Our choice is largely limited to Diagram 1 or 3, with some tweaks through automation and productivity improvement. An aggressive move attempting to revert our society and economy to Diagram 1 will mean a smaller economic output which will have strategic implications. Staying at Diagram 3 on the other hand means a continuing unhappiness with the numbers of foreigners in our midst.

Perhaps the best we can do is to slow down the growth in foreigner numbers and work harder at alleviating infrastructure bottlenecks, so people don’t feel so crowded. But once we start restricting the inflow of foreigners into the human-attention jobs ranging from domestic work to construction to cleaning to food service, costs will rise. The current (abnormal) period of low-cost human services will end. Your relative wealth vis-a-vis these classes of workers will decline. Get used to it.

35 Responses to “The future according to sushi”

  1. 1 ricardo 15 September 2012 at 18:19

    Well said, Mr. Au! I hope all Singaporeans realise this and adapt cheerfully.

    Ultimately this will result in more happiness for all. Really. Truly.

    As for Sakae Sushi, its sad that they haven’t cottoned onto 2 x $1,500 jobs > 1 x $3,000 job in terms of happy staff which = better productivity & morale.

    Somehow, this is related to Shanmugam’s link to Korean graduates and their reluctance to accept menial jobs. Obvious from the comments that Singaporeans are of similar persuasion. It’s as though a Degree must entitle you to things … but is worthless of itself. A huge mindset needs changing and not only of our Lord LKY etc.

    • 2 eremarf 16 September 2012 at 13:32

      Hi Ricardo – I realise this and am cheerful about it. It’d be nice to live in a fairer society.

      However, when I was teaching Development Geography at school, and talking about such issues, there was quite a bit of confusion and rejection (with the usual PAP platitudes – no natural resources, small nation, etc) of such ideas among my students. Well, I could have presented the ideas better (in hindsight). But nonetheless I’m glad to have at least planted the seed of such ideas of social equality in young minds. Some might germinate and flourish? I hope. Most of my colleagues back then would never address such things in the classroom. Those who would have mostly, like me, resigned from service.

      At moments like these, I wish I were back teaching in school to perhaps try shaping the future (if I don’t, my ex-colleagues will anyway, which could be worse). And seeing MinEd Heng making some significant changes in school/teacher performance metrics, makes me wonder if teaching (as an entire package), will become attractive again in future.

  2. 3 Appleseed 15 September 2012 at 18:44

    Excellent skills at presenting and visualizing the social situation. I like the diagrams. Very nice.

  3. 4 patriot 15 September 2012 at 19:47

    Those in debt or in desperate need of money may want the job. It is the a question of whether they can withstand the long hours as well as the hazards involve in the work.
    As for sacrificing personal life and family togetherness; shall i say that most
    Singaporeans, even those in high positions, are victims to the Phenomenon. Oversea assignment, seminar, upgrading courses, meeting etc tend to eat into time for leisure or even plain resting.

    $3000 a month may seem quite a lot. But, that is because by and large, wage for most workers in Sg is still at Third World Level.

    Anyway, if Sakae can prove that despite their offer, they still have difficulty getting Singaporeans to work for them, maybe, it could be allowed to employ more foreigner workers. Who knows? And then, other companies will follow suite.


  4. 5 Sun Koh 15 September 2012 at 23:04

    Here’s a suggestion: I can safely say that nobody aspires to become a dishwasher, toilet cleaner or road sweeper. So to compensate for that, anyone who take up these unpleasant jobs should be paid higher than the median salary. Then the human resource shortage might be decreased. The decreased shortfall can then be filled by foreign workers, but they should be taxed more.

    That requires changing the Singapore mindset that workers in these industries should get bottom pay. For a start, we may change our thinking that dishwashers cannot earn a salary comparable to the chef. As much as the food is important, they cannot be served without dishes.

    Are we ready for change?

  5. 6 ts 15 September 2012 at 23:57

    Alex, rising cost does not need to result in higher prices for consumers … businesses in Singapore have by far been the biggest beneficiary of GDP growth which is aided, in large parts, by large influx of low-skilled foreign workers. It is time for some balance in the system and for businesses to share GDP growth with the common worker, rather than shifting the rising cost to the consumer

    • 7 yawningbread 16 September 2012 at 00:21

      In effect you’re saying that businesses should be expected to absorb wage increases without raising prices to consumers. Unfortunately, I can’t think of a mechanism to obtain such a result, against the motivations of businesses to maintain profitability.

      • 8 God Awful Mess 16 September 2012 at 02:51

        Funny thing. Everybody else seems to be enriching themselves with price and pay increases and passing it to the consumers including the low wage earners and we are talking about how painful it would be to do the same for the workers.

        This situation has taken on a moral dimension when maximizing earnings and profits seem to be ok for some groups of people only.

        The Singapore worker has no voice nor bargaining power. Sure looks like the same low wage earners have been subsidizing the current prices for everyone else for a long long time.

        Something has got to give.

      • 9 Ramen 16 September 2012 at 09:08

        I agree businesses will always be looking to maintain/increase profitability, but whether they are able to transfer the rising costs to consumers depends on whether the business is a price taker or price setter.

      • 10 meow 16 September 2012 at 10:32

        The only way is through government intervention by raising corporate taxes and personal income taxes in a progressive manner to claw back whatever they pass on to consumers. But that intervention can only happen with a non-PAP, non-capitalistic government.

      • 11 Ace 16 September 2012 at 10:44

        The other major cost component is rent. Businesses are paying too much money to the Landlord and hence they need to squeeze workers on salary. So if wages increase and businesses are unable to increase prices, then they will either be making less profits or losses. Business owners may then decide not to continue the business.

        With fewer businesses, demand for rental properties would drop and become more attractive to businesses again. The problem in Singapore is that it is easier to force workers to take low salary rather than to wait for the Landlord to reduce rent although the latter would encourage more startups in Singapore.

        So the solution then is to reduce the dependence on foreign labour and wages of local will rise. Whether businesses can pass the cost to the consumers or not is irrelevent.

      • 12 eremarf 16 September 2012 at 13:06

        I’m not sure if I’m too naive here, but if the law doesn’t protect workers’ rights, if labour unions cannot do that, if taxation and redistribution cannot do that indirectly (all suggestions mooted by previous comments), perhaps we can have some kind of independent body certifying businesses which are fair to labour – maybe a Fair Labour Practices label?

        Singaporeans who care about fair hiring practices can patronise only businesses which are fair in hiring. Well I guess it probably won’t be profitable and hence won’t be attractive, except to a niche market. And I’m cynical about Singaporeans penchant for fairness. And it only works at the final consumer point (doesn’t affect business to business transactions).

      • 13 yawningbread 16 September 2012 at 13:27

        Surely, your question alone reveals the answer: we SHOULD fight for the political rights and freedoms that open the door to workers’ rights, independent unions and a fairer taxation system/social safety net.

        Please don’t just wring our hands about our social condition and then still try our darnest to avoid drawing the necessary political implications.

        Get political, not avoid it.

      • 14 eremarf 16 September 2012 at 13:49

        You’re right Mr Yawning Bread, and I have sporadically over the years been reading your blog (about the time I was in JC or NS, I believe), and it has been a big part of my political awakening. I am very glad you have been and are still writing. 🙂

        I agree we have to start with politics too. I guess I am guilty of quite a bit of hand-wringing (I’m not much of an activist, I’m afraid, but I greatly respect and admire the work you and others are doing), but I do try my best to become aware of issues myself, and to raise awareness of issues (with friends, ex-students, etc), and when it falls to me to vote, I try to make it count (I live in Aljunied GRC).

        I ought to do more, but where to start? How to start? I think I’m procrastinating like I do so often. Maybe someone could come up with a field manual for political activism like the Occupy Wall Street movement has been doing? I don’t know. >_<

      • 15 henry 17 September 2012 at 16:08

        There should be a difference between profit & greed.

        Sustainable profit can be achieved for all enterprise if and when owners, shareholders, CEO are willing to accept lower & justifiable salaries.

        Otherwise, they will have to be innovative and create new machines or processes to improve productivity. What on earth will a CEO do with a salary, bonus of 25 million dollars? The ratio between the highest wage and the lowest wage must be reduced.

        Thrift is not for enterprise, profit is… ( Lord Keynes )

        Cutting costs is the most simple of all strategies even my grandmother knew. No need to go to Harvard.

      • 16 ingénieur 17 September 2012 at 16:51

        For all the cost components of a viable business, there is a price determining mechanism. When negotiating against a monopolistic entity for rent and utilities, chances are that the vendor has the upper hand in pricing. Other items that can be sourced on the open market from individual vendors like materials (alibaba) or labour (the hordes of readily available hungry dishwashers) will put the pricing advantage in the hands of the client.

        If IEA agent commission recommendations, the Singapore Medical Association’s medical fee guidelines, or SIA pilot union’s demands can give a backstop to purely competitive price-seeking, the lack thereof will weaken any lone labour provider’s voice in the wage negotiations. @yawningbread 16.9. 13:27 Yes. Only politicisation can provide the voice.

  6. 17 Apa papidi 16 September 2012 at 00:14

    I would like to know how many cleaners Sakae Sushi has on its payroll now working 12 hours a day and how long are they on the job.? Are they paid $3000.? If not why?

    • 18 Saycheese 16 September 2012 at 02:44

      No $3000 dishwasher at Sakae Sushi as they have been unable to recruit despite many applications since the news broke out.

  7. 19 Lorence 16 September 2012 at 01:27

    does it remind you of the case whereby tharman minister claim it is possible for those with $1000 per month salary to afford a flat with naive real live example ? Isn’t the question is why should we live with such extreme condition ?

    Look like this Sakae Sushi boss try to bullshit his way to impress PAP by blaming on lesser mortals and endup backfiring.

    No more Sakae Sushi for me.

  8. 20 bongkinchen 16 September 2012 at 10:30

    It’s all a well known deception by concerted self-interest employers that there is more than real apparent critical dire shortage of employees to man their businesses. It is a question of being blissfullly and purposely ignorant of easily seeking out the hungry job-seekers out, even Phds what more, PMETs !!! The hoohaa ploy by the fat cats is all a disingenuous deceit of hookwinking the Citizenry (and, especially, MOM ??) at only wanting to employ foreign imports basically because these all out and out scums besides depressing our normal labour wages in the market, are cheaper, better and faster for more sheer blood and sweat profits to the fat cats’ bank accounts. That’s what is meant as being more foreignly competitive for us than against us. Morons !! This is paramount self-indulgent patriotism for thier own selfish business ends right to the innest core !!! Can’t the incumbents discern this simple no brainer scam !! Incompetent and incapable of fair reasonable governance of Singapore for Singaporeans first, others, second ??????? MAJULAH SINGAPURA !!

    Profit is their prime motive. Just like the fat cats that employed the foreign imports and talents because these labour interlopers are cheaper, faster and better at depressing our wages and displacing our PMETs, shorted sightedness at boosting artificially our GDP too momentarily, overloading our ancillary business infrastructure, evoking the first prime ministerial public apology at a national election rally, etc, etc. You know the rest. A political whiplash that was never seen here before. But the political salaries are still the greatest and higherst in the world. Are there any clawbacks for these terrible economic misdeeds ????

  9. 21 patriot 16 September 2012 at 15:25

    It is a well known fact that rent, fuel and utilities
    are the main causes of price hikes in everything.

    The biggest land/property owner is the HDB and
    the essential goods and services providers are
    mostly state-owned enterprises.


    • 22 yawningbread 16 September 2012 at 16:01

      You wrote: “It is a well known fact that rent, fuel and utilities are the main causes of price hikes in everything.

      Is it a well-known fact? Are they the main causes?

      • 23 yuen 16 September 2012 at 23:54

        in terms of total business cost, labour is more likely to exceed rental; a typical Sakae Sushi outlet would have chef, waiters, dishwashers, etc; their total wage bill with CPF etc would exceed the rental except in the most prime districts

        but in terms of “price hike”, the trigger is more likely to be rent increases, which are usually quite substantial; wage increases are usually milder and more easily absorbed

  10. 24 patriot 16 September 2012 at 17:13

    Rent, essential goods such as fuel and utilities
    costs have cascading and snowballing effects
    on all end products.
    When fuel price goes up, everything that has to
    be delivered, including services where even the
    delivery is the service technician him/herself goes
    up. The passengers that rely on any transportation
    likewise have to pay more.
    When operators have to pay more for utilities, again
    all their goods and services follow.

    As for rent, it is obviously going to cause permanent
    hike each time it is raised.

    Wages for most unskilled workers had remained
    stagnant and some even brought down by contract
    with little or not much medical, leave and holiday
    benefit and incentive. Many had resorted to hiring
    foreigner workers which further depressed the salary
    of the locals. As such, me does not think wage has
    much to do with price increases in the market place.

    Well known fact maybe an understatement, for, known
    or not, the said items are indeed the main causes, unless
    me am allowed to factor in the Authority and its’ policy
    of not controlling the spiraling hikes.


  11. 25 Paul Ananth 16 September 2012 at 21:17

    Hi Alex, I was at MG Chan CS’s session at Buona Vista a couple of weeks back where he was talking about health care costs. He asked “what are the main drivers of rising healthcare costs”. I answered based on what friends who run GP/specialist clinics tell me about the bulk of their expenses – land and retail costs account for more than half of what they spend every month. He promptly ignored that and began to give us a lecture on supply induced demand and other economic gems from his days as a first class Hons economics grad from Cambridge. You are probably right – it is not well known!

    • 26 petulantchild 17 September 2012 at 11:06

      It’s not that it’s not well known. Of course they are aware, but to address these issues mean doing away with rent-seeking businesses. But that’s very hard to do because it means they have to give up on easy profits, and they’re addicted to them. The voters have to send them for Intervention program to see if they would change for the better.

  12. 27 Cost 17 September 2012 at 10:35

    Rent,fuel and utilities plus high managerial cost for few top managers in Singapore are definitely the main causes,it may not be presented as such.

  13. 28 Chanel 17 September 2012 at 10:56

    “Despite being very vocal about the increasing numbers of foreign workers…….Singaporeans are slow to see the implications of that — which is that costs must necessarily rise.”


    I take issue with the above. The problem of our over-reliance on cheap foreign labour began about 10 years ago, in the early 2000s / late1990s. How did we cap inflation at 2% to 3% prior to that? Did our economic structure deteriorated overnight such that inflation is out of control?

    The answer lies in basic demand and supply. Foreign workers consume goods and services when they are here. As the population exploded in the past several years, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that demand for goods and services grew exponentially as well. For example, demand for hospital beds and other healthcare services has increased dramatically. Add to that the focus on tourism (healthcare tourism in this example), businesses need more manpower to accommodate the heightened demand. This need for manpower exceeds the available native supply (i.e. S’porean workers).

  14. 29 petulantchild 17 September 2012 at 11:00

    We should be open to best practices in other countries which use automation to increase productivity. Like a supermarket in Germany that only requires 2 staff, a German cafe that only has a cashier, and a Ramen shop in Japan that is only manned by 2 persons. Using the ramen shop as an example, it uses the vending machine concept like that of the Japanese 10-min cut salon, QB House. Customers select their choices in the vending machine and make payment, a coupon is issued and they enter the shop for their meal. This shows that even with a smaller population, we can raise productivity through automation and innovation using local staff. These staff can be paid a higher wage for their efficiency, and labor cost may not necessary increase since fewer staff is required. The automation requirements of businesses can produce entrepreneurial start-ups that provide engineering services and even develop machines for further automation, which is what is happening in Japan. We have to think out of the box, instead of confining to conventional thinking.

  15. 30 dolphin81 20 September 2012 at 19:06

    On the low-end foreign labour side, the hard truth is we have to live with them for some time while we try to figure out what to do. at least the PAP Governemnt admits this is a valid issue.

    The biggest problem here is, where are all the supposed value created by the foreign so-called professionals?

    The PAP Government talks non-stop about attracting foreign talent but gives us almost zero information on their value.

  16. 31 X 21 September 2012 at 03:06

    Why isn’t anyone pointing out the obvious? Douglas Foo is simply a shameless PAP bootlicker lying through his teeth to give his PAP masters political ammunition to use against the commoners?

    “See? Here is a guy offering $3000 for a cleaning job and no Singaporean is willing to take it. So Singaporeans are lazy and picky and we are entirely in the right to import foreigners by the boat load.”

    Douglas Foo is just too stupid to foresee that so many people would actually take him up on his offer and is now trying desperately to weasel out.

    Why do you think Douglas Foo was invited to appear on TV with Lee Hsien Loong in the National Conversation farce? No one but bootlicking toadies would get invited to kiss PAP’s ass on national TV.

  17. 32 A proposal 21 September 2012 at 20:35

    There is a cheaper workforce. And they are call “students” . Get rid of some useless CCAs that teaches them nothing but marching drills and the importance of some are to the nation over others and instead expose them to the real world as early as possible. As early as the age of 12 where they can be meeter greeters, bubble tea makers, part time maids or even dishwashers, subject to age, maturity and safety.

    Tweak the education system where no studying is still very damning but studying too hard is simply a waste of their time which A* students will go nowhere faster/further than the rests who get B+, an added incentive to have a balance in their life.

    Technology therefore plays a part in simplifying job processes to make them as safe as possible as every parents want it to be. Remove the risk of long term injuries while a little bruise to their pride will probably be the best for them.

    It will not eliminate reliance, but will definitely reduce it, after all nobody in the right mind wants their children to be construction workers. At the same time, when these students graduate, they would definitely be much more wiser and appreciative of the supposedly managerial role they are trying for and make them more competitive compared to others.

    In this manner, we reduce the population needed, we fill the menial jobs that we now depend heavily on others, we push our next generation even higher on the ladder.

    What do you think?

  18. 33 Rushifa A Rushifa A 23 September 2012 at 08:48

    You’ve just described my childhood there. Used to make $1200 during my student days working in a factory. Now it’s McDonald’s for $4.50 hourly? Don’t make me laugh. Part time salary has actually shrunk. Stop blaming the kids for not wanting to work. The pay now simply stinks. And things cost more that what they used to be.

  19. 34 patriot 24 September 2012 at 23:55

    Students are badly exploited by businessmen.
    But, it is only possible when businessmen are
    sanctioned by the Authority to employ the students
    at the rate they are paying the oldies.

    In any case, Singaporeans are expected to be
    productive and self-supporting as soon as they
    are willing to work, exploited or not.


  20. 35 yawningbread 1 October 2012 at 00:53

    See an article in Economist magazine, 29 Sep 2012

    An incurable disease
    A new book explains how health care can become both more expensive and more affordable

    Mr Baumol calls industries in which productivity growth is low or even non-existent “stagnant”. Employers in such sectors face a problem: they also need to increase their wages so workers don’t defect. The result is that, although output per worker rises only slowly or not at all, wages go up as fast as they do in the rest of the economy. As the costs of production in stagnant sectors rise, firms are forced to raise prices. These increases are faster than those in sectors where productivity is improving, and faster than inflation (which blends together all the prices in the economy). So prices of goods from stagnant sectors must rise in real terms.

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