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May 04
Southeast Asia
Singaporeans Work Life Balance Shifting

Time does not stop for Singapore workers even as they took a well-deserved breather on May Day.

Singaporeans Faces taken by iNewsTodayIn the last 10 years, the Singapore workforce has aged noticeably. But the typical worker is now more educated, earning more, and more likely to be in a white-collar services sector job. Companies are competing with each other to hire the best talent from around the world, with an increasingly globalized jobs market. They are also managing the higher aspirations of the young, of whom three in four now have a diploma or degree.

At the other end, a shrinking pool of less-educated workers combined with curbs on cheap foreign labour are resulting in a shortage of menial laborers. These Singapore workforce trends show up in government statistics and are highlighted by employers, unionists and labor experts interviewed by BT.

Given these trends, they say the pressure to cut costs, improve productivity and move towards higher-value jobs to attract jobseekers is stronger than ever before. Take transport services company Woodlands Transport, for example. The average age of the 220 bus drivers there is now 50. Many have been loyal employees for 20 years or more. The drivers are mostly Singaporean.

Foreign drivers from China and Malaysia make up less than a fifth of the workforce. “Local drivers are getting older and older, while we are trying to improve the pay package to attract younger drivers,” general manager Roger Wong tells BT. “But younger drivers would rather become taxi drivers as there is better income and more work-life balance.

“The government tells us to boost our productivity but ultimately I still need one driver per bus. Service quality can be improved. But my drivers have a lower secondary education, and some of the older local ones cannot even speak English,” he says. For workers aged 45 to 65, those with secondary education comprise the biggest educational grouping. But for those born after 1965, degree holders form the biggest group.

At the 30-34 age range – where many diploma holders who wanted to get a degree have done so – nearly 50 per cent of the workforce are degree-holders. Diploma holders make up another 25 per cent. Ernst & Young country managing partner Max Loh says the way the company attracts and retains talent is being shaped by the young.

They want “broadened career experiences and opportunities to progress quickly”, he says. The company thus has programs in place to give people working exposure in different places, a structured development program, and a coaching culture to maximise staff potential. Singaporeans are also concerned about work-life balance, he adds. The company is looking at providing more “staff engagement and wellness activities” and flexible work arrangements, such as for working mothers.

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