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Some civil servants to see decade-low total bonus for 2019

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Civil servants in Singapore will get a year-end bonus of 0.1 month and an additional one-off lump sum of between S$250 and S$1,500, with those in junior grades getting more.

Singapore

CIVIL servants in Singapore will get a year-end bonus of 0.1 month and an additional one-off lump sum of between S$250 and S$1,500, with those in junior grades getting more.

The exception are senior civil servants in superscale grades, who will get a one-off payment of S$400 instead of the year-end annual variable component (AVC).

"Taking into account the prevailing economic uncertainties, the Public Service Division (PSD), in consultation with and with the support of the public sector unions, will exercise restraint for the year-end bonus payment," PSD said on Monday.

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For some, this year's total bonus package may be the smallest since 2009. Then, civil servants received no AVC, just a one-off payment of 0.25 month - capped at S$750 - and the one-month non-pensionable annual allowance or 13th month bonus.

Since 2010, the annual bonus package has been at least two months, apart from in 2016 when it was 1.95 months without one-off payments.

Earlier this year in July, civil servants received a mid-year AVC of 0.45 month and a one-off lump sum payment of S$200, with a higher lump sum of S$300 for civil servants in grades IV and V of the Operations Support Scheme (OSS).

Together with the 0.1 month year-end AVC and 13th month bonus, this year's total bonus package is 1.55 months plus one-off payments.

However, the one-off payments mean better packages for those in lower pay grades, who get a higher additional lump sum, with around 2,200 in OSS grades III to V getting the highest amount of S$1,500.

With the lump sum, OSS officers can expect to get a full-year variable bonus of "more than one month", said Amalgamated Union of Public Employees general secretary Sanjeev Tiwari.

In a note to public officers, Minister-in-charge of the Public Service and Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said Singapore's economic performance in 2019 has been weak, and the outlook "remains uncertain and challenging with downside risks".

Noting July's 0.45 month AVC, he said: "Since then, our economic performance has further weakened."

Cham Hui Fong, assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, said: "As the outlook remains uncertain, the public sector unions comprising the Amalgamated Union of Public Daily Rated Workers and the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees agreed on a calibrated approach with a view to reward lower grade officers with a higher dollar quantum.

The labour movement and the public sector unions will work with the public sector on training, she added.

The private sector is often seen as taking the lead from the public sector in year-end bonuses, but that might not be the case across the board.

"Given the slower growth and uncertainty, it won't be surprising if businesses take a similar cautious approach when considering year-end bonuses," said Singapore Business Federation chief executive officer Ho Meng Kit.

But he added: "That said, there are still some sectors in the economy that are doing well and facing manpower shortages. Companies in these sectors may not follow suit."

CIMB private banking economist Song Seng Wun said that although the low public sector bonus serves as "confirmation" of the poor wages outlook for the end of the year, the inclusion of a one-off payment might serve to remind firms that they have the discretion to reward employees more than just the 0.1 month AVC.