As at January 2021, “more than 97% of employers with foreign workers living in dormitories were paying salaries electronically,” said the Minister for Manpower on 24 February in answer to a parliamentary question by Member of Parliament Louis Ng.
This represents a significant increase from the 76 percent prevailing just before the requirement was introduced in April 2020. See our article: Electronic payment of salary: ten years’ inaction catches up on Singapore
What would be good to know is
- What is the monitoring mechanism applied by MOM to obtain such a figure?
- What are the verification checks to ensure, if the monitoring mechanism relies merely on employers’ replies, that the replies are true?
- How frequently are monitoring checks made?
Just as global trust in Chinese-made Covid-19 vaccines suffer from insufficient detail released by the manufacturers about their trial results and how they were conducted, it is important not just to release a statistical result but one also has to be transparent about the methods by which the result was obtained.
TWC2 has also come across a worker who said he was partially paid in cash and partially through bank. Although it is just a sample of one, it is enough to raise questions about how common this hybrid practice is, whether MOM’s monitoring system is able to capture it, and how it counts towards the 97% figure.
It seems to be an awful lot of trouble for an employer to split his wage payments into two parts, paid through different modes, and we naturally wonder what the motivation for doing so is.
In the parliamentary answer, MOM alludes to eletronic payment as helping to prevent salary disputes, but should employers resort to hybrid methods, this can defeat this aim.
TWC2 looks forward to further clarification and details from the Ministry of Manpower.
Here is the full question and reply:
NOTICE PAPER NO. 271 FOR THE SITTING ON 24 FEBRUARY 2021
QUESTION NO. 488 FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
MP: Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang
To ask the Minister for Manpower (a) whether she can provide an update on whether all migrant workers living in dormitories are now being paid their salaries electronically; (b) if not, what is the timeline for ensuring that all migrant workers living in dormitories are paid salaries electronically; and (c) whether the requirement for electronic payment will be extended to work permit holders not living in dormitories.
As of January 2021, more than 97% of employers with foreign workers living in dormitories were paying salaries electronically, up from 76% before the requirement was introduced in April last year.
Among the small minority of employers who have yet to switch to electronic payment of salaries, some have indicated administrative issues with the setting up of workers’ bank accounts, while others have cited their workers’ preference for receiving salaries in cash. MOM will take steps to ensure full-compliance, including educating employers and workers on why and how to implement electronic payment of salaries.
Paying salaries electronically has proven to be beneficial, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It ensures that foreign workers continue to receive salaries even when there are movement restrictions in place. It also helps prevent salary disputes, as there are digital records for each transaction.
Given the benefits of paying salaries electronically, MOM is in consultation with our tripartite partners on extending the requirements for electronic payment of salaries to more workers, including local workers and work permit holders who are not living in dormitories.