But it is not just work culture but the way the country is led and run. There was a time when govt had a socialist touch and socialist heart, tapping on capitalism to produce wealth with to goal of sharing to elevate everybody. In 1975, the PAP resigned from the Socialist International before they were expelled[Link], Gradually this socialist heart disappeared over time and Singapore adopted a form of unbridled capitalism to maximize GDP growth. Independent workers' unions disappeared, income gap ballooned, wealth became more and more concentrated in a small segment of the population. A ideology of free market start to conquered all facets of our life - expansion of for-profit medical care, public housing with prices linked to open markets,. for-profit public transport system ,...even our utilities company was sold off to private hands. It is now an every man for himself system and what you get purely depends on your ability to make money. In the 80s I used to think that Hong Kong was a society where the rule of money was so strong people became obsessed with the pursuit of money over everything else - they could be forgiven because they were technically a colony and not a nation. But today the Hong Kongers fought to put in minimum wage for low wage workers, welfare for the old and unemployed and prevented the govt from imposing GST because it will hurt the poor. They don't even have to pay their leaders less than one-fifth as much as ours to serve.We have strayed so far from the middle, we better find our way back soon. This inequality in our society, the largest among developed nations, is exacerbated by an ideology that results in policies that gives as little to those in need as possible.
THE extraordinary courage of the Fukushima 50 - the Japanese engineers and technicians battling to contain the nuclear fallout from reactors damaged in the earthquake and tsunami - offers lessons to Singaporeans.
One important factor behind the dedication of these workers is Japan's collectivistic corporate culture that values loyalty and ensures long-term employment security. This is in contrast to the American model, which is characterised by individualism and short-term profitability.
These values are reflected in the salaries of senior executives: CEOs in Japan are rewarded far less than their counterparts in the United States and Europe.
While the Japanese corporate culture has often been criticised for breeding conservatism and inertia, and for rewarding riskaverse senior management, it has also fostered an exceptional sense of team spirit and commitment that transcends short-term gains. This sense of esprit de corps is evident among the Fukushima 50 workers, and it is through them that the best of Japan Inc is being shown in these harrowing times.
Singapore Inc has been moving towards the US model with its emphasis on rewarding 'top talent' generously. Over the years, we have been seeing increasingly disproportionate levels of remuneration for senior executives in contrast to workers down the line who have to face the prospects of redundancy and wage reduction in tough times.
Also, given the ease of replacing local staff with foreign labour, Singapore Inc risks being turned into a mercenary, alien and transient space peopled by workers with little sense of belonging, loyalty and commitment that is found in the Japanese worker.
Liew Kai Khiun