Under paid, No career progression, No work life balance

 Singaporeans are an unhappy lot at work. Consider this survey by JobsCentral:

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Only 57.9% of people are happy at work. Now this is marginally happier than during 2009’s recession year.

We say “only” because we live in a country that’s one of the most successful in Asia, which has a very high quality of living, where employment is (by economically standards) is at maximum and where the most basic of human needs are taken care of.

So why?

Here’s the other revelation:

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 Many of us think we need $10k to be happy. The “magic mark”.

 Now, the national median salary for PMEs is just about $3.5k – if this was median, then we have a bunch of very unhappy people.

“Singaporean employees are also placing increasing importance on achieving a work-life balance,” Asia New Net reported. “But more than half of the employers surveyed admitted their organisation’s performance in creating flexible work options – such as variable work hours, job-sharing or working from home – is average or poor.”

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Is there hope on the horizon to lift the national mood? I’m optimistic at least for the following reasons:

MoM’s tightening of foreign labour

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We know that the country is at maximum employment and companies are hard pressed to look for suitable people to fill positions. For some companies, the only option left is to recruit locally. With so much competition for labour, it is now an employee’s market, and in such a market, the employee can negotiate for better salary.

The Progressive Wage Model

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Security officers and cleaners have seen wage floors introduced – this means their salaries have increased very quickly. The PWM wage mechanism also asks for employers to increase these low waged workers salaries over the years. When their salaries increase, the rest of society will also increase. It won’t be long before the other workers start comparing salaries and think “hey, why are my wages no different from a cleaner’s”?

Collective Bargaining

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If you’ve never heard of “collective bargaining”, then maybe you should join your company’s union. Or try to get your company unionised (you need only half of your company to want to do this). With the negotiating power of a union in place, workers in your company are in a better position to lift not just wages, but also holidays, benefits and see better protection in place.

Second skilling

Speaking of unions, the NTUC has been calling on workers to continuously develop their skills. Not just any skills, but rather a second, separate and distinct skill set that one can call upon in times of need. Think: a banker who’s also a photographer. An advertising suit who’s training in law. A marketing executive who’s sharp in economics. In our world of change and uncertainty, it is as important to unlearn something as it is to learn something. We need to be highly adaptable to keep up with the markets.

Singapore Symbol 4 -Financial Center Shenton Way

The only way to go, is up. For now. With all these policies in place, businesses will be hard-pressed to look for manpower so the best they can do to retain manpower is to pay. To really ride on this trend and to capitalise on this, here are a few other tips you should use:

Know what makes you happy

It may sound a bit zen to say this, but it is true. If you don’t know what makes you happy, then no amount of welfare, salary or satisfaction from work is going to please you.

Improve, improve, improve

Companies hire you for one thing, and one thing only: profit. One of the ways you can profit a company is by sharpening your skills, or having a wide variety of skills to benefit their work. Are you in administration? Could you also double up as a book-keeper? Are you a driver? Could you also double-up in store-keeping? If you can prove to your employer that you can be of use, there is no reason why he/she wouldn’t do their best to keep you.

Be of use

The other reasons why your company will pay you more, would be if they can ride off your networks (for brand/business building), or if you have a consultative approach to your work: you know how to solve their problems, save them money and do things better and faster. We’re all here to be of use to each other, there’s no denying that… and that’s where people would pay real money for.

 It sums up to the character of each individual. If you see your job as a place where you can expand your creative energies, be very productive and very innovative – there is no reason why management would not want to pay more for your services.

If not, then perhaps no where on the planet will you ever be happy.

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About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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