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Navigating Rising Security Costs and Talent Shortages Under Singapore’s Progressive Wage Model (PWM)

Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has introduced the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), effective from 2024. This model covers retail workers, in-house cleaners, security officers, and landscape maintenance workers. Its primary aim is to elevate the wages of lower-wage workers. Under this model, a full-time security officer will see a 60% increase in base salary in 2024, followed by annual increments of at least 8.3% up to 2028. While this initiative is commendable for improving wages and welfare, it also brings significant pressure to businesses, especially those heavily reliant on such manpower. The cost of hiring a security officer, as suggested, now ranges between $6,400 to $9,700 a month, compelling businesses to seek alternatives to reduce manpower dependence, while upskilling their workforce to handle tasks that require critical skills and human interaction.

The PWM is designed not as a barrier but as a strategic measure to address the persistent labor shortage in the security sector, with the goal of attracting talent through the provision of higher-value roles and salaries. However, the security manpower supply remains stagnant. This stagnation is due to multiple factors, including skill sets, scarce career advancement opportunities, and societal stigma, making the security guard profession less appealing. This issue is further compounded by the attractive financial incentives and flexibility offered by the gig economy, drawing potential candidates away from traditional jobs, not just security. 

This is also not a Singapore-specific phenomenon. Globally, there is a seismic shift, younger generations of workers from developing and developed economies expect attributes like purpose, growth, and autonomy; which traditional jobs cannot offer. Considering Singapore’s demographic trends, a significant portion of the current security workforce is nearing retirement age, which could drastically reduce manpower availability and escalate operational costs for businesses reliant on conventional security methods.

In response to these challenges, it is important for labor-intensive businesses to rethink their approach to security needs. A shift towards technology-centric solutions is now imperative, using manpower only where absolutely necessary. This transition requires swift and strategic planning to ensure businesses can navigate initial challenges and adapt effectively. Without such adaptation, businesses risk facing prolonged periods of heightened expenses and operational challenges due to the dwindling availability of security manpower.

Businesses must avoid falling back into manpower-centric strategies by simply supplementing security equipment around existing manpower operations. Security equipment, while essential, is not a standalone solution; it requires expertise for strategic and optimized use. That is why managed services provided by Central Monitoring and Command Centers (CMCC), are seen as vital. These off-site services utilize tech-enabled tools to conduct on-site security operations, providing businesses with the necessary security coverage and support. However, setting up a well-structured CMCC requires substantial capital, expertise, and long-term commitment. Additionally, operating a command center often necessitates specialized licenses. Licensing acts as a mechanism for accountability and oversight by regulatory bodies, ensuring that these centers adhere to strict standards and best practices. It validates that the command centers are capable of handling sensitive data and coordinating emergency responses effectively, with trained personnel and proper equipment. 

Managed services present a strategic solution for businesses navigating the complexities of rising security costs and talent shortages. Beyond merely accessing technology-enabled solutions without being hindered by a talent gap, businesses can enjoy several long-term advantages. Managed services offer a pathway to long-term savings by spreading costs over time, aligning with an Operational Expenditure (OpEx) model. This financial strategy allows businesses to plan their budgets more efficiently, avoiding the need for substantial upfront investments and enabling more strategic allocation of resources. 

Additionally, the comprehensive maintenance service and equipment warranty included in managed services eliminates the need for engaging multiple service providers for servicing and maintenance, providing businesses with worry-free equipment upkeep. This arrangement not only simplifies operations but also ensures that equipment remains operational and up-to-date without incurring unexpected expenses. Furthermore, the pay-as-you-use structure inherent to managed services enhances service accountability. Businesses benefit from a higher degree of control over the service quality they receive; should the service fail to meet expectations, the option to terminate the agreement acts as a significant incentive for service providers to maintain high-performance standards. This model fosters a mutually beneficial relationship where service providers are motivated to deliver excellence, knowing their continued engagement depends on consistent customer satisfaction. Customers will know which providers are unwilling to commit and do not need to just accept promises.  

Security operations that can be outsourced to managed service providers include perimeter patrolling, alarm monitoring and verification, and access control identity management. With VerifSuite Video Guard Tour, command center agents can remotely conduct perimeter patrolling with greater precision, following pre-determined scripts and adhering to strict SOPs in the event an incident is detected. Surveillance cameras are strategically installed to ensure optimal coverage. VerifSuite Video Verification employs advanced cameras equipped with AI technology to automatically detect anomalies and trigger alerts in the CMCC. Agents then assess and verify the incident via the camera to determine if it’s a false alarm or if further incident response is necessary. Beyond AI cameras, other types of alarms, such as intruders, temperature, machinery, and fire alarms, can also be remotely verified by CMCC agents.

In terms of identity management and access control, VerifSuite‘s innovative integrated platform facilitates contactless access, supporting various technologies such as BLE, QR, biometrics, and RFID, thus ensuring secure and seamless access control. The platform also integrates smoothly with License Plate Recognition (LPR) systems, offering capabilities for automatic gantry access through the whitelisting of vehicle plate numbers. Other commercial applications include remote access control by CMCC agents for sensitive areas, such as logistic cargo containers and warehouse entrances, during off-hours.

In conclusion, the introduction of the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) by Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower marks a significant step towards improving the livelihoods of lower-wage workers. However, it also necessitates a strategic shift in how businesses manage security and operational costs. Embracing managed services and technology-centric solutions not only helps businesses navigate these financial pressures and labor shortages but also ensures long-term savings, streamlined operations, and heightened security effectiveness. As businesses adapt to this new landscape, the importance of strategic planning, investment in technology, and partnership with managed service providers becomes increasingly clear, offering a sustainable path forward in the face of evolving challenges.

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