Singapore public service has able people who the government pay wages to commensurate what their peers of integrity and ability are earning in the private sector. The government realised that if they paid the brightest and talented workers fractions of what they can earn in the private service, then public officials will not remain long in public service.
The idea is that underpaid government workers have ruined many states. Therefore, adequate pay is necessary for high standards of probity in political leaders and high officials. Consequently, work values, experience and job satisfaction among government workers of Singapore has always been high.
O’Toole in his work, Ideal of Public Service, highlights the idea and ideal of public service motivation. The traditional approach to public service demonstrates that public service is an idea, and a worthy thing to do under prescribed behaviour to public officials. Contemporary public motivation approaches are relying on empirical research in discovering why people seek jobs, and remain in the public service (O’Toole 9).
According to Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics, the idea and ideal of public service motivation is that civil servants should regard the interests of the whole society as being the guiding influence over all public decision-making. Public officials must set aside their personal, class or group interests purely out of perceived duty to serve the public.
The duty of serving the community surpasses a commitment to family, tribe, or self. Aristotle notes that it would be unrealistic and impossible for a man, being a selfish animal to do that. However, as an ideal, it would have both inspirational and motivational force.
The notion that public officials have lower work values, experience, job satisfaction, and public service commitment in relation to their private sector counterparts are not matters of debate in Singapore. In Singapore, public service job satisfaction, work values, and experience are much alive in the spirit of doing the right thing with competitive rewards.
Holzer and Callahan note that government agencies that have been the recipients of exemplary awards use various state-of-the-art techniques to reward their staff. Monetary rewards are necessary, but they are not the only motivator among public officials of Singapore. The country has managed to integrate human resources to its policies, plans and processes (Holzer and Callahan 98).
According to job characteristics theory, employers who recognise qualities, regard their staff in high esteem, create purpose of work, opportunities for consultations on matters that impacts on the working lives of staff, are most likely to attract and retain motivated staffs. Singapore has improved work-management relations, communications, training to improve skills, and improved physical working environment. These factors serve to improve job performance and experience, and in return enhance employee motivation.
Scholars have identified three levels of motivational bases in public service. The rational base motive focuses on processes such as policy formulation, commitment to programs and advocacy for special or private interests.
The norm-based motive highlights issues regarding the desire to serve the citizens interest, loyalty to duty and government, and social equity. The affective motive drives civil servants through a motivational base of commitment to program from genuine conviction about its social importance and patriotism of benevolence.
In references to these motives, Singapore government embarked on curbing corruption in order to promote the interest of the public. Singapore government has identified the modern strategic motivation tools which go beyond the traditional forms of motivations. The government identifies, recognises and applies dynamic systems of motivation to create a mission-driven team of performers.
According to Farazmand, there are five high-road and visionary motivational forces that government use to motivate its workers (Farazmand 70). Governments create and instil a real purpose of public service among strategic persons. Singapore employs this approach through hunting of the best qualified people.
Secondly, there is a promotion of trust with a promise of future career beyond the narrow view of careers. Public servants have opportunities of advancing their careers through training and further education for development of advanced skills. Singapore government creates a sense of belonging among its public officials. This has enabled them to serve the nation as well as the course they believe in and cherish.
Farazmand identifies the third element as maintaining a sound compensation system. This is both equitable and efficient in order to prevent public service brain drain and attract the most competent talents to the public service. This is what has created better job satisfaction and experience among public servants of Singapore. Their compensation structures compare to those of their peers in private sectors.
The fourth element of motivational forces aims at creating inter-organisational mobility and job rotation system that would enable the staffs to move freely without obstacles. Public service administration systems aim to exploit this force to eliminate job monotony, and exploit wide varieties of existing skills among civil servants.
Finally, there is a deliberate move by the government to keep developing and promoting knowledge and skill base among its workers. This enables civil servants to keep up-to-date and equipped with the cutting-edge knowledge they need to manage and perform better in the information age. Government achieves skills and knowledge development through seminars, in-service training programmes, workshops and conferences.
There are fundamental features of public administration in Singapore which are enhancing work values, experience and job satisfaction among public officials. McClelland’s achievement motivation theory argues that challenging tasks might create achievement situations and elicit feelings of pleasure.
Therefore, a worker may associate himself with strong achievement motivation. The idea of adopting macho-meritocracy based on merit and not patronage is driving the public service in Singapore. In Singapore, meritocracy includes the selection of both public officials and politicians on the basis of their achievement criteria.
Ezra Vogel refers to meritocracy in Singapore as “macho-meritocracy”. This creates an aura of awe for the top leaders and provides a basis for discrediting less meritocratic opposition regardless of their beliefs. This awe has enabled the first generation of meritocratic impeccably honest leaders to establish public service in Singapore (Quah 5).
Singapore public sector is competing with the private sector for the best talents. It is necessary to note that Singapore has no natural resources to depend upon. Therefore, its human resources are its most valuable resources. The country is relatively small with a population size of 4.9 million residents by the year 2009.
The government has to compete with the private sector by employing three strategies. The government offers graduate scholarship to the best students in the cohort of school-leavers. These people return home to serve the country for a given period depending on the scholarship awarded. Lee Kuan comments that Singapore spectacular growth is as a result of the best mind put to handle the most crucial problems of the country.
At the same time, this crop of leaders are the most able to develop what the country needs for development. Government of Singapore is constantly reviewing the salary package of public officials in order to prevent brain drain of talented civil servants to the private sector. In this regard, top civil servants’ salary is equally competitive to those of top earners in the private sector.
This is in addition to their motivating, monetary rewards of a 13th salary and monthly allowances. Thirdly, Singapore increased the rate of promoting its civil servants together with salary revision. Public officials were resigning due to low pace of promotion. Officials get their final promotions in the rank at the age of 45 years instead of 50 years.
Corruption was a problem in Singapore during the colonial period. However, when the PAP government assumed office in 1959, it embarked on dealing with corruption by enacting the Prevention of Corruption Act (POCA). According to Transparency International reports, Singapore has been the least corrupt country among Asian countries since the year 1995 to 2009. Therefore, corruption is no longer a problem in modern Singapore because public servants see it as a high risk activity with low reward.
Singapore has created favourably working environment to civil servants by relying on institutional and attitudinal administrative reforms. The PAP government inherited a civil service with colonial mentality. For instance, in the year 1960, the government created a ministry to deal with the issue of shortage of staff housing.
The Political Study Centre serves to change the mindset of the senior civil servants where they attend evening classes to discuss problems facing Singapore. Singapore succeeded in reform implementations because of the public service strong cooperation and clear statement of reform objectives. Further, there has been a deliberate focus on institutional and attitudinal reforms, reliance on both comprehensive and incremental strategies in administrative reform, and zero obstacles to administrative reforms.
Singapore civil service (SCS) relies on statutory boards for implementation of socioeconomic development programmes. Civil servants have been instrumental in maintaining law and order, tax collection, and the provision of services to the citizens. The successes of these programmes have a general impact on staff morale and motivation.
In this regard, job satisfactions among civil servants occur has a result of an outgrowth of achievement, recognition, challenging tasks, responsibilities and promotions. All these are creating satisfaction, positive feelings and improved performance among civil servants.
Unlike other developing nations, Singapore civil service has been effective in implementations of public policies because of the massive support of the political leaders, reliance on meritocracy to recruit and promote civil servants, low levels of corruptions, strict disciplinary control in the SCS, reliance of computerization and information technology, and finally its relative small size.
According to equity theory, the fundamental drive for job motivation is to create equity due to perceived degree of existing inequality. Singapore derives their job satisfaction and motivation values from improved service to the public. The SCS requires that civil servants provide services to the citizens swiftly, fairly, and without any discrimination.
The government has introduced various measures to increase service delivery to the public with the focus on outcomes as motivational tools. For instance, there is a Central Complaints Bureau to handle public complaints against rude and incompetent civil servants.
The idea of using policy diffusion has enhanced work values, job experience and satisfaction among government workers. When there is a problem, civil servants do not reinvent solutions because it is an expensive process. Rather, they rely on policy diffusion i.e. finding out how other states have handled the same problem to identify the most appropriate solution to the problem in Singapore.
In any case, other countries have not handled such problems Singapore civil servants will formulate new solutions. For instances, they introduced electronic road pricing (ERP) to handle traffic jams, and thermal imaging scanners to handle the SARS epidemic in the year 2003.
According to the World Bank report of 1993, Singapore is a country people perceive to be highly bureaucratic but pays its public servants best in the Asian region. The aim of this compensation is to attract qualified personnel to the civil service, motivate them towards superior performance, and retain the talented civil servants (Christopher and Guy 34).
Singapore government has been competing with the private sector for talent through its salary revisions. The growth in economy elicited a salary increment for civil servants to prevent loss of talent to the private sector. The government established the National Wages Council (NWC) to formulate guidelines on wage policies, recommend yearly wage increments, and advice on incentives systems for improved job performance, efficiency and productivity.
The government of Singapore implemented an investment scheme, INVEST plan to help new public officials to have smooth transit from the public service to into the next careers. At the same time, public officials in the retirement schemes receive additional pay every month. These schemes are flexible to public servants since they have the choice to stay or to opt out. Officers who leave the service do not forfeit their pay if they opt out before retirement age.
In order to ensure the job security in the civil service, the government employs most of public officials on a permanent basis. Singapore government rarely uses the fixed-term contracts except in projects with the specific terms and skills requirements. This ensures that there is continuous availability of skills to deliver service to the citizens.
Citizens consider Singapore public servants as efficient, strategic, pragmatic and thorough. This is because the public service has shown improved service delivery to the public. Currently, there is an ongoing incorporation of IT in public service in order to deliver services effectively and efficiently. Government workers feel that the government provides a better training field for new employees.
Critics look at Singapore government philosophy of offering whatever salary necessary to attract and retain the talent the public service needs against work values, performances, experience and job satisfaction. The system has been effective in enhancing effective civil servants with the desire to serve the public.
Salary revisions aim to catch up with those of private sector and make a career in the public sector more competitive and rewarding. Pay reviews are necessary in Singapore in order to maintain quality of public administration, which citizens expect from their government.
The government recognises that maintaining work values, experience, and job satisfaction with the pay package to attract the best talent in public service is not enough. The government has embarked on deliberate efforts on trainings and seminars for civil servants in order to enhance their skills. In this regard, civil service has become attractive for potential recruits as a new training ground to match competitive, and meritocracy system of Singapore promotions.
Future trends indicate that there will be connections between job performance and pay. The government continuously looks for new approaches of rewarding public servants in order to match their pays with those of their private sector counterparts. However, in doing this, government is cautious not to undermine values driving civil servants work values and job satisfactions.
Christopher, Hood and Peters Guy. Reward for High Public Office: Asian and Pacific-Rim states. London: Routledge, 2003. Print.
Farazmand, Ali. Strategic Public Personnel Administration: Building and Managing Human Capital for the 21st Century. London: Praeger, 2007. Print.
Holzer, Marc and Kathe Callahan. Government at Work: Best Practices and Model Programs. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, 1998. Print.
O’Toole, Barry. The Ideal of Public Service: Reflections on the Higher Civil Service in Britain. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2006. Print.
Quah, Jon. Public Administration Singapore-Style: Research in Public Policy Analysis and Management. London: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2010. Print.
Table 1: Functions of Compensations
Type of compensationFunction
Basic compensationTo attract qualified candidates to the Civil Service
Variable compensationTo motivate civil servants towards superior performance
Supplementary compensationTo retain talented civil servants