DESPITE the recession that hit towards the end of 2008, Singapore workers still clocked up the most hours, says a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Shorter work weeks and temporary lay-offs introduced to save jobs during the downturn trimmed working hours here to below the mandatory cap of 44 a week - but only slightly. With working hours still way above 40 a week, Singaporeans put in more hours than workers in 12 other countries used for comparison in the recent report, an update on ILO's Global Wages Report 2008-09 released in November 2008.
The report shows 11 of these 13 countries posted a fall in working time in 2008 and the first three months of 2009, compared with 2007. Average working hours in the 13 countries declined from 39 to 38.2 per week.
'Men and women have both been affected,' the report says. 'Among the six examples with disaggregated data, we find that hours worked by women declined from 36.4 to 35.8, while hours worked by men declined from 40.7 to 40.'
The report says the cuts in hours contributed much to slower growth in monthly wages, which eased from an average 4.3 per cent to 1.4 per cent for 53 countries. 'Overall, while a majority of countries could maintain declining but positive wage growth in 2008, more than a quarter experienced flat or falling monthly wages in real terms,' the report says.
One of them is Singapore, where real wages slipped one per cent. The others include the US (zero per cent), Germany (-0.6 per cent), Switzerland (-0.7), Japan (-0.9), South Korea (-1.5) and Iceland (-4.8). Wages fell 3.6 per cent in Taiwan and 6.2 per cent in Hong Kong.
'Compared with the annual average of 2008, real wages in the first quarter of 2009 fell in more than half of the 35 countries for which data is available,' the report says. Although the report was released recently and quotes International Monetary Fund figures from October 2009, it does not go beyond June last year.
Working hours overall, including those in Singapore, should have fallen further as the recession deepened in Q2 2009. And that means wages as well. 'The picture on wages is likely to get worse in 2009 - despite the beginning of a possible economic recovery,' the report says.
Only workers in Iceland - which nearly went bankrupt - put in almost as many hours as Singaporeans in 2008 and Q1 2009. South Korean workers, who, like Singaporeans, are expected to work 44 hours a week, clocked up fewer than 40. Taiwanese workers also put in fewer hours, while the Japanese held constant.
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