You Young People! Tsk tsk tsk…

In response to:

I think the title of the article, “The Young Singaporean Adult”, already gives us a clue to what the contents are going to be like. It smacks of that arrogant, condescending and patronizing attitude I associate with un-innovative old farts and bigots who seek only to label and belittle “young upstarts”. And the article does not disappoint. What we read is not so much a stinging critique (because any coherent critique must be even-handed and explore the other side of the story), but rather, a grotesque caricature of young Singaporean working adults. If you replace all the terms referring to young Singapore adults in this article, with words like, Jew, Black, Moslem, Marxist, homo and faggot, you will instantly recognise the shadows of some pretty racist, homophobic propaganda – the type of media that we readily denounce today with good reason. Because we know better.
If the article was interested in being objective and even-handed, it would cover or at least follow-up with the other side of the story- namely, “The Singaporean Employer”. My own anecdotal experience with Singaporean employers has been anything but inspiring, creative, innovative, risk-seeking. In fact, the opposite is true. In the last year alone, I have attended 6-7 job interviews, all of which were dead-ends. In most cases, the employers said I did not have the required experience to do the job. Even when I replied that I was very willing and able to learn new skills on the job, the response was in the negative. I am not even talking about a complete switch in career fields – these positions required skills – 60-70% of which I already had 3 years worth. These employers just want an effective clone to replace the staff who just left; they are not interested at all in “taking a risk” with a new employee. As for venturing out of their comfort zones, need I say more? If young Singaporean adult workers really are as “risk-averse”, as the article claims, then surely it’s partly because they are following the shining example set by their bosses?

The article also alleges the prevalence of a mindset, where if young Singaporean employees are unhappy, they just quit and leave for greener pastures. This acute observation, while true, applies to the majority of employees all over the world today. In fact, the observation is belated since management gurus have talked about the phenomenon for at least 10 years. Fact: most fresh-graduates stay in their first jobs for an average of 2-3 years maximum. And with even government agencies doing away with life-time/ permanent employment, and resorting more to short-term 2-3 year contracts (yes the contracts are always renewable, but the threat of a terminated contract always hangs over an employee’s head), is it any wonder that young Singaporean adults feel unhappy, unappreciated or as if they are on permanent probation? Can you honestly blame young Singaporeans for not sticking it out with an employer that’s failed to secure their loyalty? Can you blame young Singaporeans for being human?


Feeling the “itch” to leave one’s job is not so much of a sin, as the article would have us believe. It could mean that the young Singaporean adult is itching to break out of their comfort zone and take a risk with their next job or business venture, which ironically is what the education minister and CEOs want after all. If the higher-ups are serious about addressing the issues of lack of innovation, creativity and risk-taking, then surely a similar performance review of Singapore employers in these critical areas is in due order. It’s high time that Singapore’s employers’ commitment to innovation, creativity and risk-taking were subject to serious, independent scrutiny.