Lure of the Singapore dollar

JOHOR BARU: The state government seems powerless to stem the tide of Malaysians commuting to Singapore to work due to the favourable exchange rate.

Although the trend is not new, the weakening ringgit and high cost of living in Johor Baru has made the option even more attractive.

Johor South SME Association founding president Teh Kee Sin said locals were already working in the island republic since the 1980s even when the exchange rate between the ringgit and Singapore was one-to-one.

He said in the 1980s, the monthly salary for a factory worker in the republic was S$350 while in Johor Baru the pay was only RM100.

“People are willing to go through the daily congestion,” Teh told StarMetro.

Although there are no figures, working in the republic can only become more popular as the ringgit declines furthers against the Singapore dollar.

In the last quarter of 2014, S$1 traded at between RM2.60 and RM2.63.

In the first quarter of the year, the ringgit weakened to RM2.72 and RM2.75. The lowest rate was recorded on July 6, at RM2.82 against S$1.

“I’ve a Malaysian friend working as an accountant there earning S$8,000 a month (RM22,400). He was only drawing a salary of RM6,000 here’’ said Teh.

Johor Indian Business Association president P. Sivakumar concurred with Teh that it would be difficult to halt the exodus.

He alleged although the Government had implemented a minimum wage of RM900, many manufacturing companies are still shortchanging their employees.

“They only offer a basic salary of RM450 and it will only reach RM900 if overtime and allowances are included,’’ said Sivakumar.

Bus operator Handal Indah Sdn Bhd managing director Lim Han Weng said it was difficult to hire locals as Singapore bus companies were also recruiting here.

“A Malaysian bus driver in Singapore earns S$1,800 basic pay without CPF deductions and Social Security benefits but here we can only pay RM4,000 plus benefits,’’ he said.

Lim said they had to go to rural areas and Felda settlements to hire drivers who are then sent for training and bonded to serve the company for two years.

However, many leave before the two-year contract ends.

Nasuha Gunawan, 23, works as a serving staff at a coffee outlet in Singapore.

“My take home pay is S$1,600 and with overtime it can go up to S$1,900.

“If I were to do similar work in JB, the pay is only RM1,300,’’ he said.

Factory storekeeper M. Mohindran, 32, said he could earn up to S$2,500 monthly with overtime. Both ride motorcycles to work to beat the congestion.

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