Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Singapore workers : What's in it for us?

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 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

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.


Anonymous said...

what's in it for us?


hope of "heaven" will keep us supporting the parish.

Anonymous said...

"what about the technician in Singapore's economy today?"

No worries.
I understand that property prices has come down a bit back home. Shanghai still quite ex but I think he can get a decent place in Chengdu.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky

Very subtle ... I like :-)

"I would not be surprised if visits to psychologists increase"

Yes, we must remind those who still have any money to spend it on non-subsidized medical treatments. (Pious Khaw insisted on the advert ... much we can learn from him)

"... unemployment rate of 4.9%...higher stress, rising home prices & cost of living, ..."

Another strong reminder to cut down on MCs. Nice touch!

"we have leaders who are mis-incentivised."

Yup, we cant let the stupids know that we were merely clueless and incompetent!

Your Proud Mentor

Anonymous said...

Good post lucky. I think this reflects very much how most of us are feeling, PMETs or not.

It seems that the only solution to SPUR us lesser mortals on are competition. If you don't have a job, we will introduce more competition so that you will try harder looking for a job. Hey, the casino is hiring, let us get everyone to be trained so that they can compete for those positions. We will even introduce foreign competition so that we will try harder to be employed. For those unsuccessful candidates, send them for re-training for whatever fad that props up in the future. And the cycle continues...

So what if you are a lawyer or doctor, you will still be subjected to the same situation. Prob the only exception is where you are a politician and competition is bad because you will need extra effort on these competition.

Anyway, heads I win, tails you lose.

Anonymous said...

you hit the nail on its head when you said "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....."

that explains the frustration of the struggling heartlanders. They end up throwing a chair, and get accused that "it could kill someone". That explains how soft and high-nosed our mis-incentivised elites are!

what will it take to make them see and understand the frustration that singaporeans are really going thru?

Anonymous said...

The world is your oyster. Many who refuse to accept this fate have gone to Australia, Canada or even Malaysia and China.

Just have to accept your fate if you want to remain here.

The PAP couldn't be bothered. Or the low birth rate as a result. They treat the world as their oyster and so simply let in foreigners to take the place of those who left. Eventually these became PRs and even citizens. They will be grateful to and will even vote PAP. So this is the "people renewal" strategy to ensure that Singapore still has people and young enough and still economically productive.

PAP will also have better chances in winning the next election. There will also be less local born becoming opposition. Never mind the opposition in blogs and kopitiams or Hong Lim Park. These are noises and chatter. No effect on their political power.

Never mind local born males who sacrifice and serve NS but lose out to foreigners in jobs and career. Never mind those who are "too old" to be employed. Never mind all those who are not part of the elite and so are squeezed. Again, your discontent is of no significant political issue.

PAP will still be in power and SIngapore will be peaceful for many years, never mind even 10 or 20% decline in economy or worst performing economy. So why they care?

Anonymous said...

What it means for us is that....after FM who ungraciously paved the way for civil action, we may see the emergence of LM to replace PM lol

Anonymous said...

And our President and MM are drawing 4 million per year. All our leaders, in politic office or public service should take a substantial cut of at least 50pc. Even then, they would still be very fat cats.

Anonymous said...

Sure is quiet. looks like Singaporeans are more concerned about anal sex than putting food on the table.

Then again whenever PAP reaches for the belt buckle we do instinctively bend over ...

currypuff said...

I haven't been following HDB price fluctuations, until someone I know said her family is looking for a 5-room flat near the city. The prices are in the region of $700k.
New 5-room HDB flats in the region of $500k are getting common.

That means even for 4-room flats, be prepared to pay in the region of $300k for choice locations (near MRT, etc.)
Can those familiar with this correct me if I am wrong?

At this rate, how will future generations of young couples hope to own their own homes? How many years must we work to come up with $500K for a rabbit hole?

Alfred Neuman said...

Frak you PAP! PAP ministers should frakking jump off HDB buildings!

Anonymous said...


lucky has been nice and accommodating. let's not - try hor - deface his blog with "religiously abominable languages" lol

bless elites. bless the greedy pigs. lol

Anonymous said...

Those who emigrate are the unhappy one and likely to vote against pap. The more such people move out, the better for pap.

Newly naturalized citizens are likely to support pap either they are beholden to pap or are too new to know the pap's trick.

either way, pap wins. So don't count on them to change the current system, unless aboriginal Singaporeans who are still here teach them a lesson by voting 20 opposition into parliament in next elections.

Anonymous said...

you mean ...oppositions not greedy pigs? lol

Anonymous said...

"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 you struggle harder every year."

Exactly, this is why LKY endorses Niccolo Machiavelli so much.
by Niccolo Machiavelli,
“Nothing is more difficult than to introduce a new order. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.”
—Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Anonymous said...

I wish to contribute a bit of my view.

Of course the government is incentivized. The carrot is economic growth, namely the GDP figure. Therefore, its growth at all cost.

Anonymous said...

LKY & his pappies always tell us that we all have a stake in Singapore. But it is they themselves who have a higher stake, but they will never reveal this fact to you.

Easy money for them, where to get. Just use the backdoor, then can easily match the salaries of those who have been working real hard for their monies. Just by pegging to them. Where in the world can you find such a shortcut to riches.

Just imagine if a junior doctor who joins politics can easily reach the earning capacity of his senior just be joining PAP. Who will not trade his conscience for the money. Even the Ipoh Opposition lady MP from DAP is tempted by RM25 million, so they say.

No wonder PAP attracts the wrong kind to join them :-

No emphathy - "chair could have killed someone"
No EQ - "You want to eat at restaurant?"
No compassion - "Send your old ones to die in JB"
No humility - "Get out of my uncaring face"

How much longer are we going to bear all this shit from them?

Anonymous said...

"Where in the world can you find such a shortcut to riches."

got, church.

Anonymous said...

I just hope something eventful happens soon in S'pore, not the kind by streaker scholar Eng Kai Er and her ang mo swede.
Something explosive. literally.

Anonymous said...

It is scary to be jobless, when u are only in the 40+.
& u may be there forever bec of FTs!!!
Frightening & scary specially when it is in sg where the cost of living is so high & keep increasing!!!

Tan Ah Beng said...

The only way out is the way out. Migrate.

Anonymous said...

Ah Beng,

if you migrate because you are not happy, it is to the pap's advantage as you are likely to vote for the opposition.

pap will have no problem bringing in another ft to replace you, and the grateful ft will likely vote for them.

nothing will be changed and those who stay will continue to suffer.

in a way, pap has been squeezing us by the balls and deriving much joy out of that.

Fievel said...

Many of us, like myself, have been living in walkover GRCs my entire life so whether I emigrate or not will not make a difference.

Anonymous said...

The only things left for singapore workers is to worry about making end-meet and in-competition with FT.

Recently, I noticed more and more Filipinos are working in retail shop, Macdonald, etc. while many singaporean are still out of job.

Moreover, I found it ridicules that even simple job such as retail assistance or cleaners need to have WDA certificates to be qualify.

Anonymous said...

More and more restaurants I eat at are recruiting Filipinoes. Are locals like ourselves being forced out of the job markets? Or do we have to accept wages at poverty level just to compete?

The only jobs that government is obsessively trying to get locals to fill is in the ranks of the SAF through National Service.

Truly "Jobs for FTs, National Service for Singaporeans".

yawnz said...

like a old tape recorder

Anonymous said...

When u are jobless then u know.

Ha ha ha

Scary. Frightening.
How to be jobless in sgpore??

Anonymous said...

Can't remove PAP by voting because they denied most of us the right to vote by creating those ridiculous GRCs ? Maybe we need a revolt like the one that toppled Marcos and Imedla in Phillipines last time. I bet you when that happens, we can find 3,000 pairs of shoes in the closet of you know who ! LOL !

Anonymous said...

Everyone should watch this, its people power that helped East Germany out for the good.

It should do the same to Singapore.

Anonymous said...


Clear eyed said...

Fear dominates the lives of the ordinary Singaporean - fear of losing our jobs, of not being able to keep pace with rising costs, of falling ill and not being able to afford medical care, etc etc. And above all, fear of voicing dissent, disatisfaction or criticism. This is the condition PAP has created for us. Fear is the weapon they wield to keep us docile and accepting of everything they dish out to us, however unjust. If we could all learn to shake off this shackle of fear and stand up and speak out like a human being, we will not need to live like abject slaves cowering in fear. For a start, let us give our support to the few courageous men who dare to stand up to LKY, men like Dr Chee Soon Juan. In time we too may gain courage and learn to find our voice.

Anonymous said...

"Work harder to get even less".

Yes, how to compete with FTs?
They come here for 1 S$2,000, and go back become millionaire or multi-millionaires.
Can we survive with S2,000 a mth with HDB prices keep increasing?
What is the point of working so hard??

Anonymous said...


Onlooker said...

Actually ,unless we get to vote in people who actually care what the people need, nothing.
A nation is based on the society and not the garment.
The garment can only set the direction the society take but only when it have the respect of the society it is suppose to govern.

Anonymous said...

One thing for sure I know is someone will be going to France to learn cooking lesson at Cordon Bleu for 5 weeks while we are slogging our asses off to make ends meet.

Singapore Democrats said...

Thank you for the insightful blogpost. The Singapore Democrats have featured your post in our blogs of the week section -

More about our "Blogs of the week" section -

GLOW said...

there is nothing in it for us ..

BUT still we deserve it..

what have we done to stop all this..

did we even vote in the last election...

how much further will we let them ride us...

will the next election be different...

we need the opposition... we need to contest every seat.. every GRC..

since in most places the people dont even get a chance to vote.. we need the chance to cast a vote.. to register our voice..

it is not futile to cast your vote.. if we dont stop to fight this fight we become guilty of enslaving our kids even before they start their lives..

the pap must be stopped..