My grandmother was wrong about jobs of the future

jobs cut singapore

My grandmother used to tell me at exam time: “Ah boy ah, why are you still playing your Nintendo? Are you going to be examined in how well you play your games? There is no future playing these games, you better spend more time on your books!”

It is not that the gaming industry wasn’t a big thing in the 90s, it was.

To give you an inflation adjusted idea, the total worldwide retail video game market in 1994 was worth an equivalent of $32b (in 2012 numbers). Today in 2016, the market is worth $99.6b. It may be twice the size, but it has also been twice the decades. Not exactly what you would call “phenomenal”.

It wasn’t about money. It was about stability. What my grandmother couldn’t appreciate then in the 90s, was that gaming and entertainment could be a “serious job”. To her, toys and fun are not synonymous with real work. These companies are so new, they’re hardly reliable.

Her concept of “work” was simple: a service you provided to an employer, whom in return provided you with a regular wage and you would continue this relationship until the day you retire.

This was reality for my grandmother and you couldn’t fault her. Hers was a very different period of time where businesses were practically indestructible. Some old brands have been around for over a hundred years. Coca-cola has been around since 1886. To her, being hired is like being married – you promise to be faithful through economic cycles till retirement do you part. 

The 21st century is not so kind to corporations. Economic cycles have a longevity resembling the lifespan of a common housefly. Companies face unpredictable demand and the threat of disruption. The state of the economy is getting very hard to forecast. It doesn’t make much sense to get married to your job, rather we prefer to keep the relationship “just friends”.

In such a relationship, the modern labourer has to constantly keep herself attractive. To keep her skills in good shape and flirting with new opportunity is highly encouraged. To always prepare herself to be a good match with the next job that comes along.

Today, there are some 70,000 jobs on the National Jobs Bank. However, there have been reported warnings from the government about a skills mismatch. Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say cautioned that the low jobs growth could persist and Singapore faces the prospect of rising unemployment if it does not minimise the job-skills mismatch and strive for quality economic growth.

Any answer to this problem needs to consider the following:

a.) A worker’s awareness of corporate reality. That the company, even the entire industry he is working in is prone to destruction and disruption. With this awareness, he must learn to keep himself relevant with the market.

b.) A synchronisation of networks and policies. Better still, one national body to harmonise two things: forecast of future job trends and equipping workers with the assets that will land them these “future jobs”.

Whatever the job you’re working in, whatever the industry, whatever the position… it would serve you very well to have the grim reminder that this job may have to change its roles, or you -will- have to progress beyond what you’re doing at the moment. If you’re a driver, you might have to get interested in how combustion engines work because that’s what you may have to do. If you’re a marketing executive for an FMCG product, you might want to know the basics of application development because you might have to seek out a job in project management for a software firm in the not too distant future.

And dear Grandma, I’m glad I spent a lot of time playing games and understanding how a game works because hey, I may just have to (or desire to, who knows?) go into game design in the future.


Oh by the way, just to give you an idea of how exciting some of these app industries are: Entertainment apps is huge, huge money. Candy Crush Saga makes $5.67m a month. Spotify generates $7.71m. Tinder. Ah. Tinder makes $799k a month for their owners each month. 

These industries ask for a whole range of skills: coding (of course) management, marketing, data modelling, analysis..and more. It is more than simply having a great idea, many of these phenomenal apps have been written and marketed by the programmers themselves.


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