Singaporeans shunning non-PME jobs

Ask a 10-year old child what his or her dream job is, and you’ll probably hear things such as police officer, fire fighter, and nurse… At least, that was the usual standard answer when I was at that age.

Somewhere along the line, these ambitions slowly started changing to the usual expectations – I’ve even heard a primary four (which is 10-years old, for those who don’t know) boy saying that his dream job is to be an accountant, because it offers the most stability and he wouldn’t have to work weird hours.


I’m not saying that there’s anything inherently wrong in being an accountant. I admire these people, who are able to make sense of numbers in ways I will never be able to. But this highlights the fact that Singaporeans are increasingly shunning jobs that aren’t considered PME (Professionals, Managers and Executives). According to the Ministry of Manpower, about seven in 10 job vacancies are those considered difficult to fill by locals.

This is in stark contrast to the numerous complaints about how foreign workers are depriving Singaporeans of jobs. It’s the same trope again – these foreigners are willing to accept worse working conditions, therefore making the job market uneven and unfair for the locals.

It’s quite ironic, because the jobs are there, except that majority of Singaporeans feel that it is beneath them to take up such positions. Most of these jobs include shorter workweek, lower pay, and shift work or physical labour.

It’s understandable that these jobs seem less attractive to Singaporeans, since most job hunters want stability. Another reason why these jobs could be shunned would be due to the societal expectations – a graduate or diploma holder would out of place holding a job that requires physical labour. A friend who graduated with Diploma in Mass Communication the same time as I did took up a job at a café lately, and the most usual comments she would get is that she’s wasting her time and education.


Compare this to other countries, such as Japan where children are taught that every job is important (after all, even the cleaners are important. We’ll be living in rubbish and waste if not for them!), and Singapore, where anything less than a respectable office-bound cubicle will cause raised eyebrows.

While it’s true that after spending at least ten years in school (which would have granted you an ‘O’ level or ‘N’ level certificate, at least), it seems a waste not to put it to good use. On the other hand, after spending so much time and effort on education, it’ll be even more of a waste to be fussy about jobs while holding onto preconceived notions of what is good enough. Working in a job that isn’t the ideal dream job doesn’t take away any less of your education or make you less of a person.

At the end of the day, it’s not that there are no jobs. It’s not that other people are stealing jobs from us. It’s that there are jobs, but we are too disdainful to accept them.

On the PMEs end, according to a today report, more PMEs are also seeking help for employment issues. One in two who approach the e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) for career guidance and job fairs are PMEs, compared to one in five, five years ago.

The article quoted e2i CEO Gilbert Tan who said that these PMEs come from diverse backgrounds, from retrenched workers to staff looking to upgrade themselves.

He added that the increase could be due to a changing workforce profile, which now consists of more PMEs.






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