Singapore Workers Tempering Job Expectations: Survey

A recent survey of Singapore workers shows that they have resigned themselves to the volatile conditions of their globalized economy. Most of the workers polled recognized that pay cuts were inevitable if their company faired poorly, and layoffs were likely if business competition stiffened. The survey found that the better educated and highly skilled were more likely to accept job cuts than were others. While the survey noted that many workers had broadened the range of jobs to which they applied, workers still shunned employment that entailed waiting on customers or overseas work. Among the unemployed who were polled only 2.1% asked for aid from the government, community development councils, or self-help groups. Those who were already employed were generally optimistic about keeping their jobs for the next 12 months, while those who were still looking for work expressed general pessimism. Singapore, like the US, has faced the vagaries of outsourcing, losing jobs to its lower wage neighbors. Will Singapore's workers maintain their self-reliance as business competition grows in the future? – YaleGlobal

Singapore Workers Tempering Job Expectations: Survey

Chiang Yin Pheng
Tuesday, April 13, 2004

THE report card on Singapore workers' attitudes towards today's tougher economic conditions is out, and it seems they have woken up and smelled the coffee.

A survey of 2,500 workers done jointly by the Ministry of Manpower and Dr Ho Kong Chong of the National University of Singapore's Department of Sociology has found out that Singapore workers are generally aware of the need for them to stay adaptable and competitive.

A statement released by the Manpower Ministry on Tuesday said that workers also know that the days of fixed wages are over, and that their pay packets will vary according to their performance and that of their company's.

But those who were less educated and who earned less were still found to be less willing to accept performance-based wage systems.

A good majority - 72 per cent of the employed respondents - said they accepted that pay cuts could happen if the company was not doing well.

Retrenchments have also become an accepted part of the picture. About six in every 10 respondents to the survey agreed that companies may need to lay off workers to survive increasing business competition; the better-educated and higher-skilled are more likely to accept this.

Another indicator that Singapore workers have become realistic about their job prospects: They have scaled back their expectations and have applied for jobs in different industries, jobs requiring them to work on weekends or jobs that required lower qualifications.

But fussiness still exists to a degree. Only 44 per cent applied for jobs requiring shift work, and 41 per cent considered physically demanding jobs. And jobs that require them to wait on customers or be posted overseas are still generally shunned.

The study, based on a August 2003 survey of workers as well as focus-group interviews with job seekers of different skills and education levels and the agencies helping them, was carried out by the ministry's Manpower Research and Statistics Department and Dr Ho.

The ministry, taking the findings as an indication of 'tenacity' among those in the workforce, also noted that workers were, on the whole, self-reliant. When retrenched, most cut back on their spending, live off their savings or turn to family members for help.

Only a minority - 2.1 per cent - asked for handouts from the Government, their community development councils or the self-help groups.

Those who were employed at the time of the survey seemed to be looking on the bright side, though. Nearly three-quarters of them (73 per cent) said they expected to keep their jobs in the coming 12 months.

Anxiety over keeping the job was higher among workers in construction and financial services.

Among those who have already lost their jobs, the biggest worry for 81 per cent of them lies in paying the bills; they also fear for the future of their families.

Only 39 per cent of this group said at the time of the survey that they were optimistic about job prospects.

For the full report and more figures, see Wednesday's edition of The Straits Times.

Copyright @ 2004 Singapore Press Holdings. All Rights Reserved

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