The options facing young workers in Singapore today are vastly different from what their parents had to contend with.
The baby boomer generation was largely concerned with finding career stability and raising a family, and the typical office job was a 9 to 6 affair. Fast forward to 2017, and work-life balance is becoming a huge concern, especially as working hours spiral out of control and the Internet blurs the line between work time and downtime.
So what’s the future of work in Singapore? Here are some hints of what’s to come.
The government has been pushing for businesses to implement flexi-work policies in the face of a falling birth rate and slipping productivity. But unfortunately, businesses have been slow to adopt such policies, with many “old-school”, “traditional” bosses still insisting on face-time.
But change is still taking place slowly but surely. A growing number of young, hip start-ups is taking the lead in allowing flexible hours and remote work. And as these firms push the envelope, more traditional businesses will eventually be forced to follow suit or risk not being able to retain staff.
More freelancers and non-traditional work arrangements
The number of people in Singapore working as freelancers has spiked, as has the number of jobs.
This increase has not only been fuelled by a rise in retrenchment and the accessibility of Grab or Uber driving, but also by people in the tech, creative and education industries striking out on their own to work on a self-employed basis.
It’s likely we’ve only seen a tip of the iceberg. The number of freelancers is expected to grow even further, which will bring to the forefront issues like retirement savings and health insurance, which the government might have to deal with at some point.
People with tech skills will thrive
There’s no doubt about it—those with tech skills will come out on top in the new economy. As jobs get replaced by AI, it is the guys behind the AI who will enjoy the biggest transfer of wealth.
Already, there has been a surge in the number of Singapore A-level and Poly grads aiming to study computing at Uni, and most students who get into the School of Computing at NUS have straight As.
On the other hand, those who lack tech skills will find their career options limited. Even traditionally non-technical jobs in industries like marketing and PR now have a distinct technical dimension thanks to the importance of the Internet in building businesses’s presence and reputation.
And of course, some jobs will become victims of AI, so it pays to keep tabs on the possible future of your job and industry and to upgrade, re-skill or change industries if it looks like your job could be in danger.
Careers might have less longevity, with career switches and disruption becoming more commonplace
Careers are actually becoming more short-lived than they were decades ago.
While your parents’ generation might have thought of a job as one you kept for the rest of your working life, more and more Singaporeans are now making mid-career switches, whether voluntarily or because of factors such as retrenchment.
In fact, running a high risk of retrenchment as you approach middle age looks set to be the norm in Singapore.
Furthermore, the new generation of employees are displaying a growing concern about factors such as working in an area of interest and work-life balance, which makes career switches more likely.
Widening wealth gap
Tired of seeing Ferraris whiz by as 70-year-olds toil away in menial jobs to make ends meet? We might just see more of that, as AI replaces certain jobs and wealth inequality continues to grow.
Those who are well-equipped to profit from an increasingly high-tech environment will be rewarded handsomely. Already, fresh grads in computing have seen a big jump in starting salaries.
On the other end of the spectrum, those doing unskilled or manual work could see their jobs being outsourced to robots.
With that in mind, the stakes for local students to do well at school and get onto a lucrative career path might soar even further.
How do you think work will change for Singaporeans in the future? Tell us in the comments!