Pay rose for top earners in all but one profession in benchmark, but civil service wage won’t rise
By Sue-Ann Chia
LAST year was boom time for bankers, when the bull market brought fat pay hikes and bonuses galore.
The top eight bankers had a median income of $5.92 million, the highest among six selected professions used to benchmark ministerial pay.
The Government yesterday released data on the median salaries of the top eight earners in these six professions – bankers, lawyers, engineers, accountants, multinational corporation chiefs and local manufacturers – last year.
It also compared them to 2006 figures.
The increases in the median pay of the six professions over the previous year ranged from 11 per cent to 35 per cent.
Accountants were the only ones whose median salary declined.
The Government released the data to accompany its announcement that public sector pay will fall next year.
Ministers and top civil servants will see their annual pay packages shrink by up to 19 per cent compared to this year’s.
Their annual pay is pegged to a private sector benchmark set at two-thirds of the median pay of the top eight earners in the six professions.
The benchmark is reviewed yearly. The 2008 benchmark, based on income tax returns for income earned last year, rose, in fact, by 13 per cent over the year before, to $3.05 million, according to figures from the Public Service Division (PSD).
But ‘in view of the clouded economic outlook and the likelihood that salaries will be lower next year’, the upward adjustment that would have been due in January next year will now be deferred.
PSD’s figures showed that among the top eight bankers, the median salary recorded a hefty 35 per cent increase on the previous year.
This did not surprise analysts who noted that last year was a bumper year for the finance sector.
Top bankers would have raked in significant bonuses and would also have encashed stock options tied to company and individual performances, said Mr Mark Ellwood, managing director of global recruitment agency Robert Walters.
‘In 2007, the economy was very much at its peak. There was a war for talent and people were well-remunerated,’ he said.
In a year when the economy grew 7.5 per cent and 236,600 jobs were added, prosperity extended to manufacturers and engineers too.
The median salary of the top eight local manufacturers last year rose by 29 per cent to $3.54 million.
This was followed by engineers, where the median pay of the top eight earners was up by 24 per cent to $930,000.
For the top eight multinational chiefs and the top eight lawyers, the median pay went up by 11 per cent to $5.38 million and $5.14 million respectively.
The only surprising figure was the fall in the median salary for the top eight accountants, down by 11 per cent to $3.55 million.
One reason for this could be that top accountants left the industry or retired, said Mr Paul Heng, managing director of NeXT Career Consulting.
Such a departure would have reduced the overall pay of this group of professionals, he noted, as accountants’ pay usually follows general market trends.