Social Responsibility cannot be outsourced


Here are some quick facts about cleaners:

  • They are outsourced workers – they don’t normally work for the company they clean
  • Some work (or chose to work) 10 hours a day
  • Some earn average wages of about $750

Yesterday I had the opportunity of joining in a “Cleaner’s Appreciation week” celebration at the Foodfare at AMK Hub.


When was the last time you took some time to speak with a cleaner? For me, probably never. Apart from the thank yous and good mornings to my office cleaner, my interaction with others never went more than a smile. So today, I managed to speak with 3 ladies and their humble stories of resilience made me think.

Meet Mdm. Lina.


She’s works as an outsourced cleaner. I don’t know how old she is, but her son is 35 this year. She cheerfully tells me that she has raised her 3 children all on her own as a single mother. Then she said in melodious Malay accent, a simple, but laden sentence:

“All macik’s (aunty’s) children bring up by cleaner’s money”, she says proudly.

In this one sentence, this macik has showed me how in 29 years she sought for affordable alternatives to life necessities.

In one sentence I heard the hardships of a single mother.

In one sentence I heard stories of sleepless nights, rejections, failures and the wherewithal to stand up again and carry on walking.

Now, if only we could do more to help people like her. I know we all want to do more, but in this case, “do more”, really just means pay more.

Ask any consumer, would any one of us want to pay more for our food and services? Probably not. Ask any contractor, would this company be willing to pay forgo just a little bit of profit to pay them a little bit more than the market minimum? Probably not.

This week is Cleaner’s week. At this little event I attended, the NTUC wants to remind both consumers and employers (which includes Government) that social responsibility cannot be outsourced. It is a responsibility of ALL of us.

There is a sense of nobility in helping to make the life of a less fortunate person a little better. It takes all of us to know and show that every job is valuable. It takes all of us, to move a business, to move a business to make their jobs easier, safer and smarter.

When all of us places the well-being of society before profit, we know that we would have taken a quantum leap forward in humanity.


Appended, found this video on the internet, have a look!

Happy International Cleaners’ Day! =) from Tiffany Tan on Vimeo.

3 thoughts on “Social Responsibility cannot be outsourced

  1. Hi Ben,

    Thanks for writing this post.

    I really do think that Singapore need to do more in terms of wages for blue collar roles like cleaners. Hence, my advocacy of a minimum wage structure for jobs like that. One can argue that it decreases the competitiveness of our labour workforce but if we really want to be more socially responsible and want to take that “quantum leap forward in humanity”, then we need to pay an honest day’s wage to a worker who is simply doing his/her job to make a decent living.

    I feel very passionate about cleaners having been a cleaner myself in Australia. My ex-partner did an honest day’s living, leaving our professional white collar jobs. We had work-life balance and could more than put food on the table and look at other investing and self-development opportunities in our lives. Suffice to say before the split up, we could even invest in 2 properties. Our story is not atypical of a cleaner in Australia. We also toiled with our hands, only used staff when needed and we could afford much more than the average salaried employee. But we were rewarded well for our physical efforts.

    To get there for Singapore, I think the first step is not to give more credit for the work of cleaners in Singapore and for people to change their perception seeing this profession as a “low class” job. We have become a first class garden city because of our cleaners who toil tirelessly throughout the day to keep Singapore ever so clean!:)

  2. I cud/wud pay more for food n services as consumer when services rendered to me are wat consumers are to receive/updated/etc.
    Read on net..Surveys on the whol.for Si gapore is not good..Why ? Why ? Is the people/companies/etc who r to. Answer for dis predicament ? Who has the majpr control asto

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