Hands up every Singaporean whose parents warned them they’d end up becoming road sweepers if they didn’t study hard.
Well, you might not exactly be wielding that broom right now, but that doesn’t mean your career is necessarily going that well.
In fact, you might even be thinking of joining the legions of Singaporeans who, by choice or otherwise, have thrown in the towel and decided to become their own boss.
But starting an actual business is high risk and requires lots of planning and a great idea, which rules out most Singaporeans. That’s why so many turn to three of the most popular options in Singapore.
Taxi or Uber driver
For some reason, driving a taxi or, more recently, becoming an Uber driver has been one of the most popular options for Singaporeans between the ages of 30 and 60, either because they’ve decided to switch careers or are having trouble finding jobs after being retrenched.
The Straits Times ran an article earlier this year about property agents turning to Uber driving due to the slump in the market, but they’re not the only ones. There are horror stories of retrenched engineering and banking professionals turning to taxi driving after unsuccessful job searches.
In recent years, a new breed of taxi drivers has emerged—these folks are much younger than the stereotypical “taxi uncle”. The number of taxi drivers aged between 30 and 40 is now 2,090, which is a huge jump from 350 a few years before.
That is an insane increase and speaks volumes about Singaporeans’ changing attitudes towards work. It appears driving taxis is no longer viewed as a last resort one turns to when all other career options are exhausted.
I’ve heard several non-PMET friends in their 30s complain about their jobs being too demanding and say earnestly that they might consider driving a taxi for the flexible hours when they start families, so they’ll be able to spend more time with their kids.
It appears that the lure of flexibility (and, probably, the increasingly long hours worked in traditional jobs) are making taxi driving appear more and more attractive to Singaporeans in their 30s, especially those who earn less than the median income.
Income: A hardworking driver who works at least 6 days a week and does not mind long hours can expect to earn about $3,000 to $4,000 a month. Uber drivers might stand to earn even more than that.
Despite the fact that the birth rate is so low, Singapore’s tuition industry is worth a whopping $1 billion, so it seems parents are spending more and more on extra lessons for their long-suffering kids.
Clearly, there are big bucks to be earned as a private tutor—rookie tutors who’ve just graduated from university can expect to earn at least $20 to $40 an hour. If you can teach A level subjects you can expect to earn over $60 an hour, while MOE teachers charge a minimum of $70 an hour.
Despite the MOE’s rather lame attempts to turn the education system into a less exam-focused one, kiasu parents do not look like they’re going to stop forcing their kids to go for tuition any time soon, so once a private tutor has built up a stable of students and has a good enough reputation to receive referrals, he has better job security than your typical PMET.
Giving tuition is already a popular job amongst ex-MOE teachers and PMETs who leave their posts to focus on their families and need flexible schedules.
Finally, let’s face it—part of the allure of giving tuition is the fact that, given time and planning, a five figure monthly salary is well within reach, all without having to deal with office politics or freak out about getting retrenched.
Take this guy, for example, who’s been earning six figures a year for many years, and even so is charging an hourly rate that’s significantly lower than what former MOE teachers get to ask for.
Income: Depends on how many students you take on, but if you are a university graduate and willing to work at least five days a week, you can easily earn a monthly salary of over $5,000. Turbocharge your tuition teaching by aggressively looking for students and putting them into small groups, and the sky’s the limit.
While stories about property agents making a million bucks a year used to send lots of young hopefuls to the big agencies hoping to make it big, the slump in the property market has deterred many from starting on this career path.
But for those who want to make a living through sales, the insurance industry is still quite viable. The most intimidating thing for noobs is learning how to market themselves, but this problem is mitigated by joining a team with good mentors who’ll show them good strategies or even link agents up with resources like telemarketing services.
Many of the best insurance agents start out early, often when they’re fresh out of school or even while completing their tertiary studies. They then rise through the ranks until they’re at the point where they’re building their own teams. High performers can find themselves earning six figures annually.
However, on the other end of the scale, there are countless failed insurance agents who give up after a few months.
Unlike driving taxis or giving tuition, it is quite easy to fail as an insurance agent if you’re not motivated enough. However, the allure is that once you have secured some loyal clients, you can just take care of who you’ve got and need not go out and look for new clients.
In that sense, it’s a job that’s very scalable and if you succeed in the first few years, you’ll have secured yourself a very comfortable income for the future with no chances of retrenchment.
Income: According to a 2012 report, the median income of insurance agents was only $33,000 per year, although the average could have been pulled down by part-time or inactive agents waiting to drop out of the industry. Rookie insurance agents who are average performers usually get around $2,800 to $3,000+ a month in their first few years.
Are you a taxi driver, tuition teacher or insurance agent? Tell us what your job is like in the comments!
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