Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Consequence of hire-fire policies: Unhappiest Workers in the World.

I remember a few years ago when the lack of  requirement to pay workers a fixed proper retrenchment in the Employment Act was discussed , PM Lee was interviewed on TV and what he said I can't forget. He told the reporter that Singapore must make it easier for companies to lay off workers so that they would be more willing to hire them. Over the years, Singapore moved from a management style that treasured worker loyalty to one that hire and fire workers based on how it affected the profitability of company...very often short term profitability. Many ordinary Singapore workers became expendable in companies they worked in hired quickly and retrenched quickly when the business slows.

A few months ago, I interviewed a candidate for a position in my company and he showed me his certifications for various software skills, He had worked for 10 years and collected quite a few of these training certifications. However, not a single one was paid for by the 3-4 companies he worked in. As a IT graduate, he was hired on one 2-year contract after another. When his contract ended and the company didn't have work for him, they would lay him off and he would look for another job. Because the companies only plan to keep him for short periods, they were unwilling to invest in training and he had to get to those certifications on his own to stay employable. Over time, workers like the one I interviewed lose this concept of loyalty to company. They expect to hop from one job to another not staying at a place for more than 5 years.

"Sales assistant Janice Lin, who turns 26 this year, 'hopped' five times before landing her current job"
 - Article below.

This whole system spirals into a vicious cycle. Companies don't expect workers to stay hence they invest less in training. Workers sensing that employers can and will retrench them at the slightest change in demand for the company's products, will just hop to the next job for a small increase in pay. The worker who hops around fail to build up any domain knowledge that distiguishes him from other workers. Now throw in the ease of hiring foreigners in Singapore and you realise employers can easily replace Singaporeans who are older and higher paid. Managers primarily manage cost of manpower not the build up of capability and productivity - instead of maximising the people they have, it is easier for them to cut cost by hiring cheaper workers. Now you superimpose this whole situation with Singapore's 3rd World wage structure that resulted in the largest income gap in the developed world. Is there any surprise that Singapore workers are the most unhappy in the world (among 14 countries surveyed)?

In the absence of independent unions - they all disappeared thanks to our half-enlightened former MM - the PAP govt pandered to the demands of businesses and foreign direct investments for lowering workers' benefits and importing foreign labor...to grow the GDP quickly. In the process, they destroyed this great francise known as the 'Singapore Worker'. They wrongly believed that PAP leadership was solely responsible for Singapore's success. Singapore workers were once ranked number 1 in the word in the 80s and early 90s.....now they are ranked number 1 in unhappiness and have one of the lowest productivity growth among workers in developed nations. 

S'pore workers 'world's unhappiest'

Survey of 14 countries finds local employees are also the least loyal

By Melissa Ho


HATE your work? Dread going in on Monday? Considering quitting your job?

Well, you are not alone. Most of the Singapore workforce is with you, according to one survey.

A poll of employee attitudes in 14 countries has ranked Singapore last in workplace happiness. Unsurprisingly, this correlates to loyalty to employers, where Singapore is again ranked at the rear.

Talent management company Lumesse polled about 4,000 employees from a wide variety of industries.

People were asked about how happy they were at work, whether they felt their skills were properly utilised, the career paths open to them, and the training and career development opportunities they had.

The results put Singapore last in three major areas - we least enjoy going to work, are the least loyal and have the least supportive workplaces.

Only 17 per cent of Singapore's workforce see themselves staying with their current employer forever. The global average is 35 per cent.

'Clearly, very few employees feel bonded to their companies. This is going to be a problem as companies are not getting the full potential of workers,' said Mr Rolf Bezemer, Lumesse's managing director for Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.

At the same time, only 19 per cent of those polled in Singapore look forward to their work each day, compared to the global average of 30 per cent.

When it comes to positive and supportive workplaces, only a paltry 12 per cent vouch that they exist in Singapore. Globally, 20 per cent believe so.

Mr Bezemer attributes Singapore's poor showing to the lack of transparency and consistency in workplaces here and an absence of stimulating jobs.

Ms Wong Su-Yen, senior partner and Asean managing director for human resources consultancy firm Mercer, said: 'Strong economic growth in Singapore has led to increased job opportunities, so organisations must work harder than ever to attract and retain people.'

Mr Phillip Overmyer, chief executive at Singapore International Chamber of Commerce, agreed: 'There are so many opportunities to be employed (in Singapore) that people don't mind job hopping as they know they can always find something equally good, if not better, elsewhere.'

That might suggest that monetary incentives are the way forward but money does not always make the world go round.

The Lumesse survey found that Singapore performed well on pay, with 14 per cent commenting that their salaries have gone up by at least 20 per cent over five years. The global average is 9 per cent.

Yet people are still leaving.

Ms Majella Slevin, manager for secretarial and support division at human resources firm Robert Walters, added: 'People stay in jobs also for a good work-life balance and clear career paths.'

They must also feel that they are valued employees, she added

Sales assistant Janice Lin, who turns 26 this year, 'hopped' five times before landing her current job.
'It's very common for young adults to try out different things for novelty's sake. A lot of my friends do it,' she said.

She estimates that an average working person like her will job-hop three times, staying in each place for about a year, before settling down.

In today's talent-scarce society, perhaps this should be taken as only natural. Rather than fight it, embrace it.

Do not focus on seeking long-term employment from all employees, advises Mr Josh Goh, assistant director, corporate services, for HR firm The GMP Group.

Instead, he said: 'Focus efforts on building a strong employer brand by harnessing the best from employees during their employment.'


Source: http://www.straitstimes.com/Money/Story/STIStory_673999.html


hayek said...

A significant reason for FT policy is to keep 5% of Singaporean unemployed. If we look at World Bank data, for most of time since 2000 we have 5% unemployment.

Unemployment is good to the rich as they drive down wages and enable manager to dominate.

If there are full employment, NO company will abuse labor.

hayek said...

The labor condition has deteriorated so much that I have seen quasi slavery returning.

I have heard that people are forced into 2 years indenture with companies. The contract stipulate that anytime they quite before 2 years, they will pay penalty for "2 years training". (In fact, its just local on-job training)

Within the 2 years, they have to suffer all sorts injuries.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with the findings. Workers are putting in longer hours, stressed up and hardly rested. Vicious cycles keep occuring...

Ghost said...

What else is new? Companies have no loyalty to their workers, so workers have no loyalty to their companies. What goes around, comes around. That's the way it is in Singapore for years already. This survey didn't anything Singaporeans don't know already.

Anonymous said...

That's why over the last 10 years and counting, companies prefer to hire foreigners, as they fit in very well into the hire & fire mode. Plus much easier to get younger and cheaper foreigners. Majority of foreigners treat S'pore as merely stepping stone to other developed countries. For lower-level work permit holders, they work here for 2-3 years, then go home and they try again in 6 months.

If S'pore persist in rewarding and tolerating hire & fire mode, then citizen workers will lose their competitive edge over time. Most of us just become short-term workers to plug in gaps in companies' machinery for short period of time, then boom you're gone when not needed. There is very little build-up of institutional and in-depth industry skills. Local citizen workers become similar to foreign workers in terms of skills, attitudes and mentality. And companies become incentivised to treat citizen workers like foreign workers with impunity.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't matter contract jobs or not, hire and fire or not, unhappy workers or not, income gap wide or not.

What matters is GDP grows. And also signs of prosperity everywhere, roads packed with cars, restaurants packed with diners, and many happy shoppers thronging the malls and big sales.

Just like doesn't matter whether Ting Pei Ling or even a much younger girl is PAP candidate, as long as they can win, they are good candidates.

Like the late Teng Xiao Ping said:

Doesn't matter black cat or white cat, if it catches mice, it is a good cat.

Unmotivated said...

Yes, thank you Lucky for articulating the situation here in Singapore.

I worked for a premium airline for over 30years, rising through the ranks, contributing to staff ideas, working beyond the call of duty.

Sharing with new staff the tricks of the trade and upholding company values were the norm. Solving technical issues and realigning work processess with the aim of improving customer satisfaction, sometimes working even more than required!

Sadly, all this is brushed aside, unrecognised and even described as not complying to prescribed procedures.
It has become so bad that many employees are averse ( especially those who have worked for more than 3 years, who are more aware)
to volunteering to contribute beyond their prescibed duties.

This is perhaps the root cause of lack of empathy or consideration for colleagues or customers.Why do something which is unrecognised and worse get penalised?

I was sacked for not complying to guidelines in deployment of staff.
However, it was a practice for decades to nuture new staff into more responsible roles, under close supervison. A practice that helped build the branding that this company now enjoys.

Many staff are asked during promotion interviews: " You have been with us for more than x years, what have you been doing to improve your skills? "

It is a loaded question.

A) the work schedules do not encourage staff to attend courses

B) the staff is asked to take annual leave to attend the classes

C) Staff are allowed to take no pay leave but are not at liberty to choose the periods.

The result? would be candidates for promotion scramble to attend courses that are short, and offer very little value to their actual job roles or worse, their true aspirations.

A complete waste of resource and effort.

I now reflect that it was a humane gesture that I was sacked.

Anonymous said...

Spore needs to have a Singaporean First labour policy, period. Otherwise the shit will just carry on.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lucky
The key question is "What's in it for me?"

In a country without loyalty, what's in it for a Singaporean company/government to be loyal to Singaporeans.

And similarly, what's in it for a Singaporean employee/citizen to be loyal to a Singaporean company or government?

I personally believe in loyalty.

But I will never be loyal or trust any Singaporean company as long as PAP is the ruling party.

PAP does not value the loyalty of Singaporeans.

As long as PAP is in power, it's better to emigrate.

You are better off as a second class citizen in America than a "first class" citizen here in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

the damage these incumbent did will not be reversible in our lifetime, it is the end for singapore. we look forward to next GE to send them gentle reminder.

Anonymous said...

Wouldnt it be fair to say that Singaporean too must learn to practice the hire-fire policies. Based on last election result, its is apparent they are learning albeit a bit too slow for Lucky!

Anonymous said...

I think Singaporeans learnt too late to adopt the "hire-fire" policies for a government or party in rule. The elections in 2011 showed it well enough, and so, we are stuck in it. As for what happens, perhaps as unhappy as we are, we have to bear the consequences for what we chose. "Too little, too late" was what one opposition party member used to characterize PM Lee's apology, but perhaps it might also characterize for our sudden "awakening" of sorts in which we send "more"(more is a vague word, since it is still a small number of 6) opposition MPs into parliament as a form of check and balance......we missed our chance a long time ago. @Hayek, talking about quasi-slavery of contract jobs for a few years and where you must render a penalty for training given, I am sure that you have heard of the MOE (Ministry of Education) contract which lasts for more than 3 years, including an additional 9 months of training and where you render penalty payment for service NOT given???? We already have it here in Singapore to begin with.

hayek said...

--CPF Default again--

the prevailing CPF minimum sum (MS) will be revised upwards to S$131,000, up from S$123,000.

......(hike) to ensure that Singaporeans have sufficient savings to meet their healthcare expenses, and have been adjusted for inflation.

A BIG FUCK to PAP. Damn you.

Inflation is a big problem, but it is created by PAP money printing. And there is many policy adjustment that can mitigate losses in CPF, eg hiking CPF interest rate, allowed hedging via physical gold purchase.

PAP has did nothing, the reason is PAP want to rob our savings.

PAP, you go to hell.

An idea... said...

Employers enjoy the capitalistic approach to manage our economy.

When global economic downturns affect their earnings, what do they want the Gov to do?.. suddenly a less than capitalistic solution...
plead for help from the Gov to engineer pay cuts and discounts in paying retrenchment benefits.

This notion of a "Tripartite" colloboration is merely a disguise for Gov & Employers to hoodwink labour. To lend it some legitimacy

Yet, I wonder if labour here is prepared to challenge employers and Gov to protect the interests of workers.. be it salaries, quality of life and skills training.

As for foreign workers, I dont mind not working if they take up all jobs. Just provide me with free housing, free education, free food, free transport and free medical along with a monthly cash allowance of $4000 for a family of four.

I am certain 99% of citizens will vote with both arms to say "YES!"

Singapura Pundit said...

"And, at the end of the day, you and I will understand that we owe itourselves to ensure that Singapore thrives and prospers. You look at the number of boys and girls who, in ten years’ time, will be looking for jobs. We will be building twenty or thirty storey buildings, provided our industry and our technology expand. Otherwise, these boys and girls who are being born will
have no way out and they will be somebody else’s serfs. Neither you nor I brought them into this world to be somebody else’s serfs. We owe it to them to keep this place afloat -- thriving, prosperous, always going ahead, as it can with
organisation, not with chaos and confusion."
- Lee Kuan Yew, Speech at the Delta Community Centre's Fifth Anniversary Celebration on 19th November, 1966

Ajohor said...


Not sure why you are pinning this on Govt doorsteps considering that this is following in the footpaths of the "land of the free".
Significant number of AngloSaxon MNC corporates follow this, so they pay better but fire you when they do not need you.

Anonymous said...

Singapore needs to have companies...home grown companies that have a stake in Singapore...that will be pro-Singaporeans...Now all we have are MNCs and whether foreigners or citizens are just workers for them to meet their bottomlines. They do no care about the welfare of this state. We need to encourage home-grown entreprneurs, and I don not mean push-cart owners.

Anonymous said...

Trouble is we have too many traders, distributers.
Companies that trade in a wide range of goods.. they do not produce anything... they just trade!

Share traders
Property traders
Index traders
Comodoties traders
Vehicle distributers

Any production that is done is usually by MNCs..

We do have some production...

laksa and char kway teow

1 sim wong hoo
1 olivia lum

does not make enough production.

Anonymous said...

Hey guys take a look at the new CPF policy. :p

Anonymous said...

Yes.. Saw the CPF raise its minimum sum again, immediately after they got a clear mandate from the stupid 60% of idiots. We are screwed.. Let's all repent for the next five years.

Anonymous said...

The results of the survey is hardly surprising. The writing was on the wall a long time ago, all, but the PAP failed to see it. The beginning of the decline started some 7-8 years back, intensified over the past 5, when doors were flung wide, wide open for foreigners. Yet someone declared this to be the "golden age". I sure do look forward to 2016.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lucky,

Could you take a look at recent changes on CPF policies and help explain to your growing readers how the numbers would affect their paying for their hdb flats or resale flats? I could barely make sense of what they have done to the cpf scheme....so many changes to the extent we can't keep up. Is our CPF sufficient for retirement with exorbitant prices of hdbs that we are paying for life? CPF and HDB. Most people are unaware that their cpf contribution decreases after 50 years old. This would affect their house repayment if they draw out a 30 year loand as Mabok Tan mentioned.

Also, I have a question in my mind for some time. Recently, the cpf contribution has increase its income ceiling to $4500.

What are its implications? In 2006, it was set at $5000.

Could you explain to us readers why the need for it and its implications, please?

Thank you very much, my friend.

Anonymous said...

"I am sure that you have heard of the MOE (Ministry of Education) contract which lasts for more than 3 years, including an additional 9 months of training and where you render penalty payment for service NOT given???? We already have it here in Singapore to begin with."

It's called Ministry of Exploitation. That's why teachers in MOE schools suffer from depression. Now, the MOE has made it compulsory to BOND the teachers who do a masters with one year after they completed it.

BUT!! Here's the thing...you need to complete it part-time in 3 years. Only after completing the course for 3 years, you are then bonded for one year after the course.

In effective, you are bonded for 4 years to MOE. So...that's the Ministry of Exploitation. It's well known that singapore teachers are exploited in their work load.


If you're already doing it to teachers in a supposedly enlightened place called Ministry of Education...what more could you say about Singapore in general?

THis country is all about exploitation since the last 10 years. They're taking advantage of your ignorance and political apathy.

When the people tried to offer feedback, the government labelled them as champion complainers. As a result, this government turned a deaf ear to Singaporeans.

They thought the ground was always sweet. It wasn't. It hasn't. No any more. And it's time for change. Keeping voting for change.

Anonymous said...

To: Anon 1/6/11 00:53,

You're brilliant! Yes, that's exactly what LKY said. Now, I don't trust PAP. Period.

Anonymous said...

Anon 18:14 & 19:08, think of the various GLCs and look at the state of our SMEs. The GLCs get bigger and expand overseas, our SMEs? There's hardly any opportunity for them to grow in the last 2 decades. Is it a wonder then that we are in the current state - lacking our own MNCs and entrepreneurs?

Anonymous said...

i already predict they will do something to CPF and ERP after GE, and well you get it now, ERP going to change to distance based billing and CPF increased minimum sum. just how predictable they are! dun worry, keep this up and keep on doing this for 5 more years and i will predict another GRC lost to opposition, hurray!

Anonymous said...

If 2011 is considered the worst in terms of unhappy voters, then things can only get better from now till 2016.

So PAP win big again in 2016? No problem!

dolphin81 said...

For those who think PAP is trying to make things difficult for Sinkies, I have a different opinion.

The PAP simply does not know what is going on. It is not so smart.

The PAP already assume younger Sinkies are nimble footed. Therefore, the PAP sees no need to bother about social loyalty.

The whole of SG can be in a mess but it does not matter to PAP as it remains in charge.

SG is super densely populated but many of us dun really care about things beyond our immediate scope.

The PAP also consists of Sinkies. Therefore, they have the very same apathetic attitude. should PAP care?

Anonymous said...

Errr, how come so many people still so blur about CPF and housing matters?!?! The "new" rules and regulations have been implemented since 2002/2003. Just go read the CPF website and treat it as weekend home work.

The yearly increase in MS was started in 2003, and average about $6K-$7K increase per year. This year's increase is higher becoz of higher inflation caused by govt money printing all over the world.

The combine MS and MMS is to prevent you from withdrawing your CPF when you turn 55. If you don't have more than MS + MMS, then you won't be able to withdraw. From July 2011 to June 2012, you'll need $131K + $36K = $167K total in your CPF in order to withdraw if you turn 55. Remember, this amount will always increase EVERY YEAR.

As for using CPF for home financing, you need to read and understand Valuation Limit and Withdrawal Limit. Both VL and WL works with the MS to limit using your CPF to pay for your home. For those who pay high COV, or take 30-yr mortgage, or when interest rates go up, you will need to pay using cash for the last 33% or 25% of your mortgage. You won't be able to continue using CPF to pay, even though you may have plenty of CPF. Don't be surprised --- this "new" regulation started in 2002.

Anonymous said...

To majority Singaporeans, the PAP cannot simply be replaced.

Because if PAP is replaced, it is like replacing bad with worse.

It is simply a case of no better choice lah, if you want to remain in Singapore.

Anonymous said...

"You won't be able to continue using CPF to pay, even though you may have plenty of CPF. Don't be surprised --- this "new" regulation started in 2002."
Anon 1/6/11 10:50

That's why even if you are CPF rich or HDB "asset rich" but with little cash in bank account, you are NOT RICH!

RICH means "liquid" asset rich!

So what is all this fuss about CPF?

Anonymous said...

167k is alot. Put it this way, if you allocated 1000 a month to the CPF, you will need about 14 years. However 1000 per month is ridiculous for ordinary singaporean. Assuming $500 per month, you will need 28 years. And you cannot spend a dime of it. What do you think? 167k is alot of money.

Anonymous said...

At the current rate of one person's CPF "sinking" ceiling of $167,000, how much will the PAP Govt's TOTAL Collection be if there are 2 million CPF contributors?


So, if the population is increased to 6-7 million, how much more money will the PAP Govt get to keep indefinitely?

Anonymous said...

Hi Lucky

The survey showed similar results to one not too long ago that claims that SIngapore workers being the most disloyal.

To understand why the results are so negative , I have these questions:

a) how do you feel when you work hard and then one day you find yourself reporting to a foreigner who is way less expedrienced, less motivated, less qualified than you. I have examples. An International stockbroking company has a head of regional sales that has one yr experience downunder, a couple years in a small neighbouring country and then becomes boss to Singaporeans with more than 10 years of direct experience in leading firms. Coincidentally this 'green' boss is of same nationality to that of the firm. Familiar??

b) Are there more such examples as I have given in (a) ?? Surely.....

c) I read an earlier survey about the poor productivity of SIngaporeans. From where I stand, I cannot believe Singapore are less productive or less diligent.

d) do management of companies 'MANAGE' employees as in being committed to train, motivate, incentivise and inspire them. Do we really and truly have Leaders in these management?

e) Is it not time to have a survey of how Singaporean employees view their bosses and management ?? Assess them...

f) Do companies here verify the qualifications of their new hires??
I once interviewed an Australian who exaggerated his experience in terms of numbers of years in the job and the amount and level of responsibilities.

I urge management of companies here to test and verify before hiring and to be fair this applies to even local hires but at least when a potential employee is a NUS / NTU graduate, you honestly know what is the minimum standard he possesses. The same cannot be said of many foreign universities.

g) Do managers know that working with peers that have been poorly recruited can demotivate others ?

Some suggestions for home grown MNCs... Yes indeed I full heartedly agree. Come on Singaporeans, rise up and move ahead. Be bold. Do not under-rate yourself ! My observation of my staff is that SIngaporeans tend to underestimate themselves vs foreigners. Be bolder.

Anonymous said...

As far as management goes, its just work & KPIs.. nothing else matters.

You and I are mere digits identified by numbers and viewed as an annoying hinderance to their vision of success

It has been said that in this rat race, even if you win, you're still a rat.

Thats why I choose to exit.. live very simply, no car, no Morton's, no D24 durians.

Let the top 30% have their millions but when war ever comes to town, I know who I will shoot first.

Trempest Humphries said...

Thanks for the article. I'm in a very difficult situation myself, having contributed to the company for almost 10yrs yet shot down from a position which I aimed for, by a new guy without the necessary experiences and skills, and without employeee appraisal for 2 years! Who do we turn to in such times of need? When and can we have strong workers' council to safeguard us against unjust treatment just because the so-called political-minded management of the company we work for management to convince the bosses and we are made the pawns of their games. Im so depressed just thinking of heading to the office and meeting the same scheming bunch of people with their degrees and masters which serve them well as politicians who make or break the rice bowls of Singaporeans!

Pamela said...

The chap is completely right, and there's no skepticism.

Talent Management said...

Great, Informative Post. But one questions that kept coming up was how to engage the Executive Search Singapore in Strategic Workforce Planning to ensure that the program is successful.

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