The Real Reason Behind SkillsFuture’s Toilet Cleaning Course and What It Means for Singapore’s Workforce

February 27, 2024

Has this ever happened to you? You rushed into a public toilet, found a cubicle, locked the door and when you saw the cubicle, you discovered it wasn’t properly cleaned, with unidentifiable stains smeared across the seat.

Did you ever find yourself thinking, “Wah, the toilet cleaner probably didn’t take the toilet cleaning course in Skillsfuture, that’s why so dirty”. I doubt so.


SkillsFuture’s Toilet Cleaning Course

A recent uproar on social media has centred around this seemingly mundane subject: A toilet cleaning course listed on the SkillsFuture learning portal. The course, priced at S$580 but partially funded to S$290, drew criticism and ridicule from netizens questioning its value and necessity.

However, government agencies defend its importance, stating that it’s a requisite training for workers in the cleaning industry. The joint statement by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) emphasised the practical importance of the course. They highlighted that workers in the cleaning industry are tasked with maintaining multiple washrooms daily, requiring efficiency and effectiveness in their cleaning methods.

The course aims to impart skills in effective cleaning techniques, proper use of cleaning agents, and adherence to safety protocols. Yet, amidst this defence, questions linger about the true value of such training.

As an HR professional with experience in the field, David encountered similar situations where government policies aim to uplift certain job roles through mandatory training and certification. However, the fundamental question remains:


Does more training equate to a higher value for the job?

One pertinent example is the Progressive Wage Model (PWM), which ties wage increases to training and skill acquisition for cleaners. While the intention is noble, there’s a valid concern about artificially inflating the value of a job.

Regardless of the efficiency or effectiveness of a cleaner, the intrinsic value of the job remains unchanged i.e. the cleaner doesn’t get an increase in pay because he’s got a certification! This discrepancy raises doubts about the efficacy of such initiatives in truly improving workers’ livelihoods.


| Are we overly emphasising a paper chase?


Furthermore, the proliferation of courses and certifications, coupled with cash incentives for attendees, has created a phenomenon where job seekers prioritise quantity over quality. Candidates with numerous certifications but lacking substantial job experience often demand inflated salaries, further distorting the labour market.

In addition, the notion of “safety protocols” mentioned in the joint statement begs scrutiny. While safety measures are undoubtedly crucial in any workplace, the specifics of these protocols in the context of toilet cleaning seem exaggerated. Basic precautions such as wearing anti-slip footwear and gloves are essential but hardly warrant an entire course.

Ultimately, the crux of the issue lies in the disconnect between policy objectives and economic realities. The emphasis on training and certification as a means to elevate job roles may be well-intentioned but lacks a nuanced understanding of market dynamics.


Instead of focusing on superficial measures, policymakers should address root causes such as wage stagnation and job quality to effect meaningful change.

While the SkillsFuture toilet cleaning course may appear trivial to some, it underscores larger issues surrounding labour policy and workforce development. As stakeholders, we must strive for solutions that prioritise genuine improvements in workers’ livelihoods rather than mere symbolic gestures. Only then can we create a more equitable and sustainable future for all.


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