UPDATE: Reading one of the comments on how the PAP leadership makes the ordinary people compete as it excuses itself from competition reminds me of what I heard on BBC yesterday when Stephen S. Roach [Link] was interviewed. He said that democracy is key to the economic well being of a society because of the open competition for political leadership is essential to ensure the interests of the people are served.
During the good times, prices go up and ministers and other elites take the chance to raise heir own pay to the stratosphere. But what is in it for the Singapore workers? They struggle during the good times with price hikes and during the bad times with the fear of job loss. They struggle to pay their for their public housing, may not be able to retire properly and have to cope with ever rising cost of medical care. Many Singaporeans are beginning to ask - what was all the struggling for? From the ultra-competitive school environment to the even more competitive work environment, Singaporeans are working harder to stay afloat but does the hard work translate to a better life? For resources that are limited and allocated based on market pricing such as land and housing, competition means you work harder to get less - indeed our homes have been shrinking in size even as it consumes a greater % of our income for mortgage payments. One friend of mine called my up last year delighted that he could finally 'buy' (hmm...borrow for?) his dream home working hard as an engineer for 8 years. When I visited, the place was much smaller than the 1st flat (a 4 room flat) my father bought when he worked as a technician. Still, my friend who works an engineer has a future to look forward to but what about the technician in Singapore's economy today? ...
The struggle doesn't even result in job security - Singapore becoming the worse performing economy in Asia this year and seeing an unemployment rate of 4.9%. The competition only results in more intense competition...higher stress, rising home prices & cost of living, ...after a while you feel like you have been put on a threadmill running hard but going nowhere.
Something seems to have gone wrong with the system. As a whole, the Singapore economy has been a money making machine during the boomtimes. The problem is distribution. In the past 2 decades, profits as a % of GDP has grown to record levels and at the same time the income gap ballooned...this has spilled over into middleclass families & professionals. So what is in it for us as the leaders urge workers to work harder and longer when the wealth distribution is so inequitable?
All this is no surprise as we have leaders who are mis-incentivised. Our leaders have pegged their own salaries to those in the highest income bracket. Think about it - it is in their interest to keep this system going.....as you struggle harder every year.
Published May 13, 2009 (Business Times 13 May 2009)
Short on bonuses and high on stress [Link]
Local professionals among worst hit by cost cutting and overwork: survey
By JOYCE HOOI (SINGAPORE)
The typical Singaporean professional is cowering at his desk, a sneezing and overworked heap, if the numbers are to be believed. The latest Robert Half survey indicates that local professionals have gotten the shortest end of the stick globally, being on the receiving end of cost-cutting and management ineptitude in bad times. Some 59 per cent of respondents in Singapore reported bonuses being cut or lowered - the highest globally. Coming in a distant second in the region is Hong Kong, with 42 per cent. Local firms have also reported among the highest incidents of hiring freezes, with 55 per cent of firms no longer hiring in view of the economic climate, compared to the global average of 42 per cent. Even as local companies trim the fat, with budget cuts being cited as the main reason for shrinking finance and accounting teams, employees in Singapore who are already overworked will have no respite. Some 55 per cent of local respondents do not expect their employers to give them the option of shorter work-weeks in order to cut costs. Even if their immune systems were to fall prey to stress, employees in Singapore will not be calling in sick. None of this bodes well for workplace stress levels, with 69 per cent of local employees foreseeing an increase in stress for the rest of the year, second globally only to Japan, where 71 per cent of respondents feel the same way. 'We are living in very uncertain times and I would not be surprised if visits to psychologists increase, because some people cannot handle the stress,' said Paul Heng, managing director of Next Career Consulting. Even if their immune systems were to fall prey to stress, employees in Singapore will not be calling in sick. The top three reasons cited by local respondents for coming in to work despite being ill are all fear-related: the fear of falling behind on work; being perceived by superiors or peers as not working hard; and having too many sick days count against them. However, what some might call 'fear', others call 'character-building'. 'There are junior employees in the finance and accounting industries who have lived only through upswings and take sick leave if they so much as have a sniffle. The current situation will improve their work ethic, resilience and productivity,' said Tulika Tripathi, managing director of Michael Page Singapore. When employees are not at work, they are thinking about it. Sixty-five per cent of respondents here spend a daily average of 30 minutes or more on work emails after work hours, against the global average of 57 per cent. All this is par for the course in this era, according to Mr Heng. 'It is necessary especially when you work for global companies with operations in different timezones. You still have to answer emails at 11pm,' he said. Such high levels of strain being borne by employees will have negative implications for firms, warns Tim Hird, managing director of Robert Half Singapore. 'Very often, cost-reduction measures that cause undue pressure to workers not only lead to a loss in valuable talent, but also adversely impact the company's overall performance and eventually its bottom line,' said Mr Hird. With quality of life coming under siege for the white-collar worker in Singapore, it is no wonder that what they crave most is non-monetary in nature. 'Open and honest communication' and 'manageable staff workloads' were the top two most desired elements for improving employee morale, with 34 per cent and 19 per cent of employees voting for them, respectively. The survey polled 6,167 managers across 20 countries, 202 of whom were based in Singapore.