Thursday, 30 August 2007

Pay Your Workers Fair Wage

In light of the appeal of the Prime Minister to pay workers fair wages that commensurate with their productivity and value addition (as reported in The Star Online yesterday) and my earlier post on "Raise Your Own Salary" and the responses that the post has generated, perhaps it is also good to look at some statistics on the average salary a pastor earned in an NECF affiliated church.

According to the NECF Survey of Churches, Pastors and Christians that was carried out in 2001, a total of 226, 514 and 3,738 responses were received for the Survey of Churches, Survey of Pastors and Survey of Christians respectively. In this Survey, NECF makes the bold claim that "the maximum margin of error at the 95% confidence level is +/- 6 percentage points, +/- 5 percentage points and +/- 2 percentage points for the Survey of Churches, Pastors and Christians respectively." In other words, NECF confidently asserts that the results of this survey reflects a true picture of the real situation. If this is the case, we can safely assume that we could rely on the statistics of this Survey to make our judgement call.

Since this Survey was carried out in 2001, there does not seem to be any other comprehensive survey being carried out. But on the other hand, while the statistics of this survey may be slightly dated, it is doubted that there are any significant differences in the statistics between 2001 and the present day.

So, let's consider what the Basic Salary of a pastor of an NECF affiliated church looks like according to the Survey:
  • 19.4% earn less than RM1,000 per month
  • 45.8% earn between RM1,000-RM1,999 per month
  • 22.1% earn between RM2,000-RM2,999 per month
  • 8.4% earn between RM3,000-RM3,999 per month
  • 2.9% earn between RM4,000-RM4,999 per month
  • 1.4% earn more than RM5,000 per month

In other words, based on the above figure, approximately 87.3% of the pastors fall within the category of non-tax paying income earners according to the present tax structure.

In addition, the Survey also highlights the Other Income that a pastor might receive, include love gifts, allowances, utilities subsidies, insurances, book royalties, etc, as follow:

  • 37.8% receive other income of less than RM1,000 per year
  • 30.1% receive other income of RM1,000-RM2,999 per year
  • 12.8% receive other income of RM3,000-RM4,999 per year
  • 12.2% receive other income of RM5,000-RM9,999 per year
  • 6.1% receive other income of RM10,000-RM29,999 per year
  • 1.1% receive other income of more than RM30,000 per year

Now that we already have a picture of what a pastor earns, let us consider the following questions: Based on their earnings, what do the pastors think about their own salary? Is what they are earning adequate for them and to enable them to have some savings for their future and rainy days?

  • 20.7% indicate that it is adequate for the present and future (including children's education)
  • 53.0% indicate that it is adequate for the present only
  • 19.5% indicate that it is not inadequate but not a concern
  • 6.2% indicate that it is inadequate and negatively affecting family and ministry.

So what do the above statistics inform us? Does the salary that our pastor/full time worker receive according to the above figures represent fair wage based on the current level of inflation, cost and standard of living? Is it fair to say that 79.3% of the pastors feel that their present income level is inadequate or only adequate for the present? Is the church paying for their "workers" sufficiently? Would this level of income be an encouragement or hindrance for many others to enter into full-time Christian vocation? If not, what is the Church doing about it? Can the church afford to pay a little bit more? If so, what is stopping the church from paying a higher bracket of income? What is hindering the congregation to give a little bit more?

In addition, the Survey also notes that more than 17.3% of the pastors surveyed worked more than 60 hours a week. Coupled with inadequate salary, could this play a very significant role in which 61.0% of the pastors have in one time or another seriously thought of leaving their pastoral ministry? Could inadequate level of income be one of the factors of discouragement for the pastors?

I think I have more questions than answers. Any thoughts? Any comments?


Anonymous said...

hmm, only comment I have is that the NECF study is like at least 5 years old so the stats probably needs to re-reviewed somewhat

ionStorm said...

can they do a review for non-pastoral workers? hehehe... :P

anthony said...

tables like the first one can be misleading for a simple reason: they only show a linear representation of the situation. yes, so many pastors are in this category, so many are in that category and if you look at the figures, so many are therefore below the national average.

yet, the table does not show an important fact: how many years have a pastor worked to get to where he is today? for example, if i look at salary. i am somewhere in the middle of the table 1. but it does not reveal the sad fact that it took me 24 years to reach that figure! compared with the scenario that if i had worked in the secular side, after 24 years my salary should have at least doubled or tripled what i am presently receiving.

in comparison, my nephew just graduated with a science degree from usm and his first job offered him rm 2,500 per month (and that is for a place in ipoh). my first pay was rm 800 then.

stattistics like those presented by necf unfortunately sjews the true picture. if they can back it up with how many years did it take to get to the present salaries, that would give a truer picture of the state.

blogpastor said...

It is no joke when we say a pastor's salary is "out of this world".

From the study you quoted, it literally is!

Paul said...

ooohhh so tempted to comment :-)

Kar Yong said...

Dear Anonymous,

I suspect the 5-year old figures is not too far removed fromt the present reality, based on what I gather from friends in the minitry and from what Anthony mentioned. As for me, with my 16 years of experience both in the marketplace and ministry and my qualifications (both theologically and professionally), I am still below the "middle of the table," as mentioned by Anthony!

No, please don't get me wrong...I am not complaining.

Kar Yong said...

Dear Anthony.

I did ask NECF a few years ago for further details of the statistics so I could do further analysis on the corelation of the age of the respondents and the salary, and other issues. But sadly and unfortunately, NECF does not have the database. The former Research Commission chairperson is the one who holds the database and is not too willing to release the figures. Why NECF does not hold the copyright to the database and it lies within the hand of an individual is perhaps something only known to NECF. Sad......why ever bother doing a survey and yet discourage further analysis by geniune interested parties?

So, Anthony, perhaps we may never know the true picture of the state of the salary of pastors beyond which has been published and highlighted by me, unless the information is willing to be shared. When will that be?

Kar Yong said...

Dear blogpastor,

We all hope that while our salary may be "out of this world", we are not!!

Kar Yong said...


come on, just go ahead and comment....!!!

Kar Yong said...


There is no survey on "non pastoral" workers...perhaps one should be done too!

Paul said...

To even make any comment would be taken to be negative by many no matter how I phrase things ... ah why not!? Let me fan the embers! :-)

I think pastors are generally paid poorly not because there is no money but because of poor theology.

The keep them "poor and humble" nonsense actually still prevails in many churches. The pastors / full-time workers must "live by faith" double standards also still prevails in many churches.
I know that it's not so much stinginess for many but a theological or even moral issue that hold some leaders back. They cannot in "good conscience" give the pastor more!

I have "given up" in the sense of trying to follow the logic of mnay who would sincerely exhort me to trust the Lord to supply (especially when some who exhort me this way are multi-millionaires!)

But strangely enough ... to give generously to the missionary for some is a different matter! :-) But that's another story...

I think some of the early missionaries are also partly to blame as they "mis-taught" by their example the "sacrifical" and spartan life to the extreme where money and physical stuff were unspirtiual and set the wrong foundation. Weird heretical false dichotomy of the physical stuff being irrelevant and unspiritual compared to ... er ... spiritual matters?

And then stranfwely enough I think the fault also lies with many of us pastors (myself included) that don't really challenge the system and just suffer quietly ... and of course God does supply in interesting ways because He loves us so much ... and so we testify to God's goodness (as we should!) and this reinforces the bad and skewed theology that God will supply so the church need not bother too much!

BTW, I have challenged the poor salary system and mentality for others but not for myself (which now looking back is pretty strange thing to try and do)

Having said all that, I also wonder whether the wrong kind of people will enter voccational minsitry if the pay scale for pastors were to increase dramatically...

Bottom line? Conclusion? Solution? I have no idea - I am thoroughly confused! lol

Vincent Ooi said...

are we perpetuating such oppressive situation if we agree to work for such ridiculous salary?