My son earns $10,000 (一万)

Many years back while doing my ICT in Taiwan I had time to take the train and be amongst the Taiwanese along the Taipei Chiayi line. The Taiwanese spoke mainly minnan dialect or Hokien as we are used to. These two women were chatting away like our aunties in the market, one probably not literate and another looked better off. The illiterate, very like some of those we met at the wet market spoke in the usual loud pitch for all to hear.

‘My son ‘tan’ 一万 lah.’ (One million in Chinese numerals but ten thousand in our terms)

The other woman nodded her head politely. I was impressed, initially not knowing what currency she was referring to. After a few more exchanges I heard that the son was an odd job worker. My first impression took on a new reality. At that time the exchange rate was something like S$1 to TW$15. A $10,000 pm is hardly anything, an equivalent of a few hundred Sing$.

Today, if one is watching the HongKong TV serial, often the pay are in HK$20k or HK$30k, and sounding quite astronomical for an office worker. After conversion there are like S$4k to $5K. Still very good but less startling.

Today in Sin City, many aunties are loudly announcing that their children are university graduates in pride. Many of the older aunties were at best O level, with many lesser or unschooled. During their time, a graduate was a very prestigious thing as there were very few around. Today around you a train cabin, likely 2 out of 3 are graduates, including the white collar foreigners.

What has happened is that inflation has caught up not only in the incomes of the people but in educational level. And a $10k income today is not much better than a $1k income in the 60s/70s. A graduate today is no better than an O level graduate in that era in terms of job opportunities and potential income.

Also in grades, today, straight As are the norm and you would need more to be above the average. Today, Crescent and Fairfield are the top schools. But in those days there were the average schools. Or are they really the top schools today when many of the top schools are not spoken of in the sense that they don’t participate in the O level exam? And many PSLE school leavers could not even apply to these unmentionable top schools as they have pre selected their intakes through the through train schemes. Please do not apply. If you are good we will contact you.

In housing, every average worker could aspire to own a 5 room flat or better in the 70s/80s. Today such flats are unattainable to many, even graduates as their first property. In those days, many office workers could buy a second hand car after one year of working. Any young police or army officer could buy a brand new small capacity car after a couple of years of working. Today most of them can forget about such luxuries. Take public transport is the norm.

Have we progressed? Are our lives getting better, from living in bigger homes to smaller homes, from car ownership to taking public transport? From just an O level and bringing up a family quite comfortably to a university graduate and still struggling to make ends meet.

Shall we celebrate that we have arrived in the first world with Swiss standard of living? Is the quality of life getting better?


Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...

Please lah. You can only earn what the market says you're worth. You want to earn more, you have to produce more value for others.

Unless you are the king of everything :-) Then you can just suka suka pay yourself anything by taking away other people's stuff.

Anonymous said...


[Swiss electorate to vote on executive pay curbs]

"Swiss voters are going to the polls this weekend to decide on strict new laws to limit executive pay.

The measures, if approved, would limit the salaries of top managers to no more than 12 times the wage of the lowest-paid worker in the same company.

... reflect growing anger in Switzerland at revelations that some of the country's chief executives are earning more than 200 times what their employees take home.


Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...

Curbing exec salaries by fiat (govt intervention) has bad unintended consequences. It'll lead to "off the books" corruption and less transparency.

Human beings have a sense of worth: everyone who works wants to be paid MORE -- from labourer, to CEO.

Human nature lah.

Chua Chin Leng aka redbean said...

You are so brilliant Matilah. Curbing their pay will only lead to corruption. The best solution is to pay them whatever they want, until they are not corrupt.

This is Nobel Prize material and thinking.

Anonymous said...

Last time PAP was the best and strongest available party to be govt.

Now also the the same what, tio bo?

Everything change but how come this one no change, you tell me lah?

patriot said...

Me was paid for my labour as a construction labourer from the 60s.
Like anyone else, i wanted to be paid more, so hoped and did more overtime. But as labourer, CPF, Medical benefit and incentive are out. So, make 7 to 8 hundreds a month under the Sun.
Got married in Mid 70s; my spouse working as a clerk then started with a monthly salary of $350.
We got a near 850 sq ft 4 Rm flat at Bedok South for $18,500 when we were resettled.
We got 3 children within 10 years of marriage and was penalized for the Third One.
Upgraded to a more 1,500sq ft 5 Rm Unit in Mid 80s at Tampines for $90,700.
Kids are married except the young man. Two are educated to tertiary level.
Despite been at the low income level, we coped up and manage to form families. But, since i went into my 50s(age), i find living mundane and a drudgery. There is not much meaning looking at the way living is done in this tiny dot. Human to human relation are but just comparison, brag and envy on top of vicious competition.


Anonymous said...


So what are you doing about it?
How many PAP voters have you converted into Opposition voters?

I have converted 8.
These 8 have converted 2 more PAP voters on their own.

I have also persuaded 5 FTs that it is not in their interest to take up Singapore citizenship.
Not sure if these 5 have spread the news in their own foreign communities.

If I could only persuade 100 more of you to take similar actions.

Anonymous said...

The smart FTs must know that once they become Sinkies, they will suffer the same fate of Sinkies. Sure they would want to remain as PRs to benefit from both worlds.

Anonymous said...

RB, please do not mention the phrase "Swiss Standard". Everytime I read about this, I become more tu-lan (upset). Only he and his buddies have attained the Swiss Standard. Not us locals. In fact we are worse of than the earlier years. Income has fallen, roads are congested, bus/train services are cramp with cummuters, hospitals are short of bed and doctors ...... There is no joy and pride any more.

Anonymous said...

This is the big difference. Those who have attained the Swiss standard will be very happy. Those who have not will not be very happy.

agongkia said...

Why suddenly talk about my Taiwan auntie?
You have to amend.一万NT means 10,000 NT not one million.
During your times,there is a popular Taiwanese song name,为tio十万kor.A story about a woman being sold into a brothel by her mother for 100,000 NT.
Taiwanese's salary has increase and food is not expensive today. You can have a bowl of lor bak Png for about S$2 or a bowl of noodle below $2 dollar nia nia.
Welcome to Taiwan.

Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...


Oh, you flatter me so...

>> This is Nobel Prize material and thinking.

Nope. Just common sense about human nature.

People who are CEO material are some of the most highly motivated people around. They are "primed" to make money.

So please don't believe a word I say. Always be skeptical. Go and find out for yourself ;-)

Anonymous said...

Beans lesser than matilah singapura do not deserves to live in Sin lah.
Pergi matilah singapura

Anonymous said...

Heard many ah pek and ah erm, even ah soh(younger than ah erm)
making similar claims about their grandchildren and children.
Watch some videos on youtube about similar happenings in Malaysia too.
Maybe it is a typical Chinese Trait?

Anonymous said...

In Sin everyone knows many no need to work, no need much talent, just be rightly connected and can collect millions and millions, and doing nothing.

And no one wish to talk about it.

agongkia said...

anon 1.32
This does not only apply to Chinese lah.Its common topic.

Kopitiam Chinese ah sohs and ah pek now talk more on Toto,ibet and 4D.RC aunties tend to talk about karaoke and their special trips.
They rich mah.
And those Kiasoo Lily and Susan will keep talking about how to get the best tutor for their 3 year old kid.
Ah Pek,of course lah,you know what their favourite subject.

Anonymous said...

Dearest Anon 11:03 Am;

Me am extremely comforted by the effort You have put in and wishes that You will persevere.
I wish other fellow countrymen will be like You and change will take place.
Thank You very much for the encouragement.



b said...

Education used to be THE WAY to success. But in present days, many phds (especially in europe) are jobless or in temp contracts. These people are also very motivated, hardworking, intelligent, trilingual etc etc. I think LUCK (ie being in the right place at the right time in the right career) is THE WAY to success these days.

Anonymous said...

Seah Chiang Nee's Saturday column

[Regaining public trust]

"AWARENESS seems to be growing among PAP members
that standing under the PAP banner in 2016 election and beyond will not guarantee victory.

This is unlike the past
when being named a PAP candidate was like being given a free admission ticket into Parliament.

However, PAP representatives appear to have increasingly accepted the new reality
that future elections will be very different from those of the past.

How are PAP representatives doing
in preparation for the tough 2016 election that will likely also herald in the post-Lee era?

The biggest hurdle is regaining public trust."


Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...


Many people -- the biggest culprits are these business "gurus" -- underestimate the role LUCK plays in success.

2 biggest philanthropists in human history -- Bill Gates and Warren Buffet willingly humble themselves to attribute most of their "success" to LUCK.

Of course, you also have to be in the position and well prepared to exploit the "free kick" you get.

Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...


>> Beans lesser than matilah singapura do not deserves to live in Sin lah.

Hey cheebye, your words not mine OK?

There is a place for anyone who wants to be there, in Singapore. It is a BIG TENT.

You are not going to find too many other places in the world where there is widespread SUCCESS, but also EQUALITY (in the existential sense).

There are very little barriers to entry to just about any enterprise you want to engage in.

Locals complain too much about Singapore. They really don't know about "value" -- even when it is staring them in the face.

Anonymous said...

Really? Locals complained too much? If things are really so good for the locals, why should the locals be complaining? You think locals are IMH cases?

Anonymous said...

Locals are not as ignorant as matilah singapura seems to make them out to be.
But, matilah singapura is indeed head and shoulder above them. He, like the pappies, knows much more than lay sinkies.

Salute him; the smart guy.

Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...


>> Locals are not as ignorant as matilah singapura seems to make them out to be.

Of course not ALL locals lah. Only the ones who kpkb on internet and do fuck-all to change things in the real world.

You want to see some "intelligent" local behaviour? Go and visit Business Park and see many young (yes, very young) Singaporean entrepreneurs nurturing and incubating their start-ups. These courageous youngsters are going to save your sorry ass in the future. I work with some of them, and they are fucking awesome people -- i.e. much "better" than the likes of you and others who complain, complain complain.

Anonymous said...

You talking about yourself?

Anonymous said...


Singapore is not just Business Park lah.
There are Geylang and sweat shops at most industrial estates.
For everyone successful young intelligent sinkie, there are hundreds of experienced over forties pmets moonlighting or
are working as taxi drivers, security guards, logistic assistants, supermarkets helpers etc. Many of them were in middle management and higher.
You think the Phd Researcher turned taxi driver was a freak?

Ⓜatilah $ingapura⚠️ said...


PhD in what? Some useless arts or journalism or some other field where even an undergrad degree is "useless"

Please lah. This is the age of hard science, engineering and tech..i.e. for the people who can do MATH.

See this. First feature is a jobless woman who has a "Master's degree in Social Media". Please lah. WTF? This is a waste of taxpayer funded education.

Of all the jobless interviewed, only one engineer was mentioned. No one from the hard sciences on the list.

So consider yourself lucky in Singapore. If you are young, the world is really your oyster.

Anonymous said...

Matilah singapura did not know what the Ex A Star Scientist was doing?
Wtf! Thought You're one of the best informed and up to date.
Over estimated You by too much.
Anyway, the Universe exists with or without science.
Science is a creation of mankind and mankind is a mere created being amongst many.
You have much to know, Yoi superficial kind.

Anonymous said...

Science is as man-made as Religion.