Social service sector set for pay rise again

National Council of Social Service posts new pay guidelines on its website

Workers in the social service sector can expect to see their wages increase again, following new pay guidelines posted on the National Council of Social Service's (NCSS) website last Thursday.

The changes kicked in from April 1.

Social workers fresh out of university, including those with a degree in social work from the Singapore University of Social Sciences or a Bachelor of Social Sciences with a major in social work from the National University of Singapore, will now earn $3,400 a month, up 4 per cent from $3,270.

Those with a degree in physiotherapy or speech and language therapy can expect a starting salary of $3,550, up 6 per cent from $3,350.

As for special education teachers who work with children with disabilities, university graduates will command a starting pay of $3,620, up from $3,570.

These teachers also hold a diploma in special education from the National Institute of Education.

The latest pay guidelines cover a host of workers in the sector, from social workers to therapists and executives, across varying levels of seniority.

These workers are not hired by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) but by social service organisations, such as family service centres and children's homes, which run programmes funded by the ministry.

The increments were first announced last month during the ministry's budget debate, which said the salary guidelines for those working in MSF-funded programmes would increase by up to 12 per cent from its last financial year that ended in March.

Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee said in Parliament during the debate: "Many of those who work in the social service sector do not do it for the remuneration. They see it as a calling.

"Nonetheless, they deserve to receive a fair and competitive wage and have their contributions recognised."

Although the MSF and the NCSS review salary guidelines every three years to ensure that wages remain competitive, pay guidelines are also adjusted in between reviews. This is to reflect wage movements in the general labour market.

The last salary adjustment for workers in the sector took effect from April last year.

While it is not compulsory to adhere to the pay guidelines, charities interviewed say they follow them in order to attract and retain staff.

The sector had about 15,000 workers at the end of last year and will need about 1,000 more by next year.

Social workers' salaries have risen considerably in recent years. In 2012, The recommended starting pay for a social worker fresh out of university was $2,760 in 2012.

It is now $3,400, which is on a par with the starting salaries of teachers. - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RAHIMAH RASITH