Mr. Edward Wong is Honorary Secretary of Spa & Wellness Association of Singapore. He is also the Principal of EdeS Academy and CEO of EdeS Spa.

Event: Republic Polytechnic Tech Day Presentation
Date: 1 October 2014
Slide / Presentation

1. Singapore’s Wellness Industry consist over 20,000 business entities includes Spas, Massage Establishments, Beauty, Nail, Hair and Slimming Salons and other Complementary Therapy Businesses employing over 80,000 workers, if available.

The Republic Polytechnic and Spa & Wellness Association of Singapore delivered an Industry report in 2012 highlighting some of the challenges faced by stakeholders including:

  • Tarnished Image of the Industry
  • Keen Competition,
  • Declined Profitability
  • Escalating Labour Cost

After 2 years, most of the challenges still exist and the labour issue became critical. How can we survive? Or grow?

I am a Complementary Therapist and I live in Singapore.


2. If I live in the UK, based on my qualifications, I am eligible for registration with the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. Why should I register? Because of the benefits!


3. As a registered therapist, I will be:

  • Listed on the National Register under the sections I qualified
  • Accredited by the Professional Standards Authority for Health & Social Care
  • Covered by Professional Indemnity and Public Liability Insurance.
  • Eligible to use CNHC Quality Mark
  • Granted exempted status for London Boroughs Licence (like PLRD ME’s)
  • Eligible for participation in Health care plans (like Medi-Save)
  • Supported by CNHC in PR exercises.
  • Continuous Professional Development activities.


4. The minimum qualification required of a Registered Therapist is a QCF Level 3 Diploma in one Therapeutic Modality, those QCF qualifications with the code 600. Only one of these is listed in PLRD’s list of approved qualifications.


5. The same qualifications are offered by CIBTAC & ITEC in the UK. Those with the code 600 comply with the QCF standard. In Singapore, many schools offer a less intensive version with the code 100/2404/9, meant for countries that do not require a QCF standard.


6. QCF qualifications require intense training in each therapeutic modality, in the case of massage, it consist 5 modules total 326 Guided Learning Hours. Is that too much training for 1 modality?

No! Not if Professional Competency and Consumer Safety are of concern.


7. Let’s look at some training requirements for Massage Therapists in other 1st world countries.

Country                    Training Hours                                    Title

Germany                       3,200                         Medical Masseur/Spa Therapist
Japan                            2,500                            Licensed Shiatsu Practitioner
Canada                         2,200                          Registered Massage Therapist
USA                           500 – 1000                      Licensed Massage Therapist
Australia                         600                            Registered Massage Therapist
UK                                   326                            Registered Massage Therapist
Singapore                        ?                              Registered Massage Therapist


8. The QCF framework recognizes different intensity in training and levels of responsibilities. For example,

  • Level 2 recognize the ability to gain a good knowledge and understanding of a subject area and to perform varied tasks with some guidance,
  • Level 3 recognise the ability to gain and apply a range of knowledge, skills and understanding in detail in order to be able to work independently and to supervise and train others.
  • Level 4 recognize specialist learning involve detailed analysis of a high level of information and knowledge to perform professionally and/or manage and develop others.


9. Under the latest Singapore Standard Occupational Classifications 2010, Technicians and Professional Therapists are classified under different levels of competencies. We use these codes when registering workers with PLRD. The WORKERS, hair stylists, beauticians, masseurs, slimming consultants etc. are classified under code starting with 5 AND the PROFESSIONALS, Therapists and Instructors etc., classified under code starting with 3. The definitions correspond with the UK qualifications framework.


10. The Police Licensing Department published a list of Qualifications they recognised for Massage Establishment licensing in Singapore.


11. Unfortunately, PLRD considers all qualifications and occupations to be the same and impose the same rules to Professional Therapists as well as Workers in the Wellness and Commercial Sex industry.

The generalization of Wellness workers and Therapists as Potential Sex workers is counter-productive! Damage is caused two ways.

a. The implication tarnish the image of both the Wellness Profession and Business Entities, discrediting highly trained Wellness workers, Professional Therapists and their work.

b. On the other hand, the annual STI clearance provides a “certificate of fitness” for culprits engaged in vice, counter to the spirit of the law that prohibits any sexual activity in MEs.

Most people, including government officials and consumers take the Police Licensing Department’s list of qualifications as endorsement by the policing agency who certainly must bear the responsibility to verify before certifying that the workers are competent to provide treatments. Many perceive that all the qualifications listed are the same! But they are not!


12. This is PLRD’s list of the qualifications by training hours. The 2 years NITEC certificate course appears to be the most intensive, followed by CIDESCO’s 1,200 hours. The others range from a minimum of about 100 hours for a WSQ certification to over 350 hours for a CIBTAC QCF Diploma.

Does NITEC certificate holders have higher competency levels than a CIDESCO Diploma holder? Let’s look at the range and intensity of the courses.


13. The CIDESCO and QCF Diplomas for example covers a range of skills at level 3 where the NITEC Certificate covers training at a lower level. The CIBTAC QCF Level 3 Diploma in Massage, for example is a highly focused 326 hours class room training for a massage therapist.
Why is a higher level of training Important?


14. Over the last 2 years, CASE received over 1,900 complaints about the Beauty & Spa Industry. Grievances include:

  • Inappropriate treatments, some creating more problems
  • Ineffective treatments & unsatisfactory services.

What is our problem? Is it lack of training, low competency or no accountability?


15. What are the Essential knowledge and skills of a therapist? Therapists must be able to perform more than routine tasks.

  • Understands how the human body functions and how each part of the body may react to a specific treatment.
  • Able to assess Client’s needs; create, select and/or perform specific treatments to satisfy those needs and/or improve conditions safely and effectively
  • Understands contra-indications and possible outcome
  • Able to recognize Clients conditions and contra-indications to determine possible effects and risks in the treatment. Able to advice Client accordingly.

How many of our “therapists” are competent?


16. This report was published in the New Paper last month. The client suffered froze bite from a treatment. Questions raised include:

  • Who treated her?
  • What went wrong?
  • The qualifications & experience of the therapist?
  • Was the incident avoidable?
  • Should and can a consumer verify credentials of a therapist?
  • Who should be responsible?


17. There are some issues with PLRD’s registration of therapists.

  • Consumers are not protected! Often misled by “Registered” and “Qualified” therapists.
  • PLRD’s Registered “Qualified Therapists” are not accountable or held responsible for actions.
  • Business entities are imposed additional costs and responsibilities without getting value in productivity.


18. SWAS offers a Win-Win-Win-Win situation for the Wellness Industry

  • Recognition of Competencies & Value in Therapy
  • Segregates Standards & Personal Responsibilities
  • Enhances Competitive Advantage, Income & Profits


19. SWAS Registry of Complementary Therapist Empowers Practitioners to excel, to be recognized and be responsible for own action. Practitioners are recognized under three levels of competencies, as Technician, Therapist and Specialist, each responsible for specific performances. Our Mission is to Protect Consumers by providing them with an avenue to verify if qualifications are valid and if the ability of the practitioner meets their needs.


20. To the Consumers, it means Safety and Quality Assurance, They can access information to make better decisions and be ensured of a certain level of satisfaction and value.


21. To the Therapist, the Registry recognizes their knowledge, skills and competencies. They are accredited by their achievements and endorsed as Professionals and/or leaders in the industry. All these help enhance their professional status, competitive advantage and personal value.


22. To Business Entities, employing registered therapists means creditability and prestige. It also helps enhance accountability and relationship with clients while reducing risk of incidents. Of course, higher competencies of workers help enhance customer satisfaction, crucial to increasing sales and profits as well as advancing business growth.


23. To Regulators including PLRD, the SWAS registry provides them with the tool to monitor and manage the industry, hence reducing costs and the much needed manpower within the agencies while being assured of professional validation, higher standards and consumer protection.

All in all, the SWAS Register offers a Win-Win-Win-Win solution.


24. The SWAS Register recognize National Certifiable as well as Industry Certifiable qualifications.


25. Who can register? We have some ideas, but SWAS invites all sectors of the wellness industry to come forward and share expertize. Tell us what you need.


26. SWAS’s Responsibilities and Value to stakeholders include ….

a. Collate & Validate Certifiable Qualifications within Industry
b. Set Quality & Competency Standards
c. Recognize Personal Achievements
d. Maintain a Register of Practitioners who meet required Competencies and Standards
e. Promote Continuous Professional Development
f. Provide Quality Assurance to the Public
g. Promote Safe Practices & Accountability
h. Promote Transparency in Industry Practices
i. Marshal Code of Conduct & Ethics
j. Investigate complaints about alleged breaches
k. Enhance Quality, Value and Progression of therapists


27. Consumers have the right to Know and Choose.


28. SWAS’s Registry of Complementary Therapists Empowers Practitioners to be Recognised and be Responsible.


29. We invite all of you to encourage your employees to be recognized.

SWAS welcomes your comments and sugguestion on the registration of Therapists and their Qualification. Please write to