Singaporean youths’ opinions on whether employers should be allowed to ask for their previous salary
Youths had different opinions on the topic, but overall, they hope to see the practice go away.
On Jun 4, Minister of Manpower Josephine Teo said in parliament that employers cannot insist that job seekers declare their last drawn salary when assessing a candidate for a job.
Currently, some employers may ask for a candidate’s previous salary as part of the hiring process.
Ms Teo said that this practice may cause employers to overlook good candidates who are willing to adjust their salary expectations. She also told job seekers who encounter employers who fixate on a candidate’s previous salary to decide whether or not to hire them to “look for another employer”.
Our recent Youth.SG Instagram poll found that 72 per cent of the 180 youth respondents felt that employers should not be allowed to ask job seekers what their last drawn salary was.
Shajiah Begum, 22, a political science undergraduate, wishes that this practice would end.
She said: “Your new salary shouldn’t be based on your previous salary, it should be based on industry standards for the job, as well as how well you are doing in the job.
“If an employer pegs your current salary to your previous salary, it could trap people in a cycle of low pay. This could disadvantage lower income people, and may perpetuate income inequality in Singapore.”
She added that employers should conduct periodic and regular check-ins with employees to adjust their pay according to their performance in the role.
If employers still insist on asking job seekers what their last pay was, as a compromise, Shajiah suggested that employers could instead only be allowed to ask candidates to provide a range for what their previous salary was.
Lim Shi Kai, 22, who has experience working in a Human Resource firm, said she understands the practical need for the employer to ask the question, as it is often used as a gauge for how much the candidate was valued at the former company.
However, she highlighted that it should not be the main factor in assessing a candidate for a job.
She said: “An employer should look at other more important factors, like relevant experience and skill sets.
“Revealing your previous salary also limits an employee’s negotiating power down the road if they want to request for a higher salary.”
Fong Yi Hao, a recent university graduate, does not think that an employer asking for a candidate’s last pay would necessarily disadvantage the candidate.
“It is part of the interview process, and a candidate could treat it as any other question asked during the interview. You could frame your answer to your advantage, like if your previous pay was on the higher side, you could just as well leverage this information to ask for more pay,” said the 23-year-old.
However, he added that job seekers should always have the right not to answer the question and should not be penalised by the employer if they choose not to answer.
“If that’s the case, perhaps there should be regulations that prevent the employer from asking,” he said.