Why are Singaporeans working less overtime?

Lim Swee Say weighs in on the national decline in paid overtime

Why are Singaporeans working less overtime?
ce 2011, the average number of paid overtime hours per week has fallen from 3.7 to 3.3 hours, according to a labour market survey conducted by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) earlier this year. This means fewer and fewer employees – specifically in the manufacturing, administrative and support services, and Transportation and Storage sectors – are clocking in for paid overtime.

Minister for Manpower Lim Swee Say explained last Tuesday that there are a number of reasons for this decline, all of which indicating an increasingly efficient and developing workforce.

Chief among his reasons were productivity improvements and tripartite efforts to reduce excessive overtime hours. According to a 2016 survey conducted by global recruitment consultancy group Morgan McKinley, more than a third (35%) of Singaporeans feel that overtime is having a huge impact on their work-life balance. These tripartite efforts were implemented to ensure workers have sufficient rest, Lim said.

The minister explained that a decrease in paid overtime hours might also mean more high-level employees in the workforce. “Economic transformation has also led to an increasing proportion of managers and executives in our workforce who are not eligible for paid overtime.”

The marked decrease in paid overtime hours is reportedly in line with an overall trend of declining usual hours worked per week. Since 2010, this figure has gone down from 46.2 to 45.5 hours per week. On average, Singaporeans are spending less and less time at work.

But while working hours have gone down, earnings have gone up. A comprehensive labour force survey conducted by MOM has found that real median income has increased by 3.1% every year from 2011 to 2016.

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