One house, three families, each squeezing into a small bedroom because the breadwinner cannot afford to rent a house in a big city on a low-grade civil servant’s salary.
This is the reality of many civil servants living in cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Johor Baru, said Cuepacs, the umbrella group that represents 1.5 million workers in the public sector.
Cuepacs president Datuk Azih Muda said these were families of office assistants and general assistants, the people at the lowest rung of the civil service hierarchy and who are designated Grade-11 (G11).
Entering the service on a Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) certificate, their basic salaries are between RM805 and RM820, Azih told The Malaysian Insider. Even with cost of living (COLA) and housing allowances of RM300 and RM180 respectively, their gross monthly take-home pay ranges from RM1,285 to RM1,300.
“Their salaries are only enough to rent out a room in places like KL, JB, Shah Alam even Klang,” said Azih, referring to rental rates in these areas that range from RM600 to RM800.
“But it’s not just in the big cities, in places like Bintulu (Sarawak) the rental rate for a room is also RM500 a month.”
The typical profile of these families, said Azih, was that they were young, have only one breadwinner – usually the husband, with one child or none, and they come from outside the city.
“So in a single-storey, terrace house with three bedrooms, one family will rent and occupy a bedroom. Husband, wife, child all squeezed into one bedroom. “When the relatives of family A come over to visit and they need the extra space, family B or C will move out temporarily and stay somewhere else.
“When family B’s relatives come over to visit, it will be family A’s turn to move out,” said Azih, describing some of their living arrangements. G11 staff number between 250,000 and 300,000 throughout the country, according to Azih. Minus teachers, policemen, armed forces and health care personnel, they make up the most number of the office staff in government departments.
“This is why we have kept asking for quotas be set aside in low-cost homes for civil servants. Housing should not just be left to the private sector but it should be a social obligation of the government,” said Azih.
Cuepacs has constantly drawn attention to the issue of low public sector salaries. Last November, Azih had called for a 10% salary hike for government staff due to the rise in cost of living.Last week, he also asked the government to review allowances such as for COLA, housing, regional and travel, to better reflect the current rates of prices and goods.
On March 7, Azih was quoted as saying that the government has yet to announce whether it would review the allowances even though the prime minister had already approved a study to review them.
“It’s useless if you take too long to complete your study because the cost of living keeps going up. The government must make an immediate decision,” Azih was quoted as saying by Bernama. – March 16, 2015.