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Why are Young Singaporeans Giving Up on Looking for Jobs, and is that Necessarily a Bad Thing?

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Joanne Poh

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It’s not the best time to be a fresh grad in Singapore. Amidst depressing news that fresh grads are entering a difficult market comes this dramatically-titled report that claims that more and more 20-somethings have “stopped” looking for jobs, simply because they’re too discouraged.

Apparently, young Singaporeans are finding it so difficult to find jobs that meet their requirements that many are throwing in the towel altogether. Some try to start businesses or do freelance work or odd jobs to get by.

Why is this happening, and is it necessarily a bad thing?

 

There are more opportunities outside of traditional employment

Thirty years ago, if you didn’t have a job and didn’t have the cash to start a business, your options would have been more limited than they are today for the average millennial.

Thanks to the internet, it is now a lot easier to work as a freelancer, promote a small business or even make a few bucks by selling stuff on Carousell.

In addition, the tuition industry is now worth over $1 billion, and you can earn a very decent living as a full time tutor, as these super tutors who earn at least $1 million a year have shown. It’s fairly common for twenty-something graduates who are unable to find work or who have quit their jobs to take up tuition on the side to make ends meet.

While there’s definitely nothing to cheer about with regards to the job market these days, the very fact twenty-somethings can afford to “give up” on their job searches may not be a cause for despair, since it could indicate there are other opportunities outside of traditional employment.

Remember the girl whose photos of herself in a graduation gown holding a sign reading “hire me leh” went viral? Turns out she isn’t looking for a full-time job, but is earning a liveable sum as a freelance emcee, writer and actress.

 

Growing pickiness

Young Singaporeans seem a lot pickier about jobs than their seniors. It’s no longer enough just to have a stable job that pays decently—these days, people want good work-life balance, autonomy, a positive working culture and learning opportunities, all while being paid an attractive wage.

And if they don’t find what they’re looking for, they’re quick to dismiss a job or, if they’re already employed, job hop.

Their seniors might be quick to dismiss them for being too entitled for their own good, but so long as this attitude isn’t taken to the extreme, it does have its advantages. Not settling for just any old job can free up the time and resources to do something more productive, like start a side business or upgrade your skills, until what you want comes along.

 

Being able to live with parents lessens the financial burden

If most 20-somethings here had rent to pay in order to keep a roof over their heads, they wouldn’t be “giving up” on their job searches so easily.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of unmarried Singaporeans lives with their parents means that they also have more leeway when it comes to rejecting job offers or taking breaks in their job search.

So detractors who say millennials are not willing to hustle as hard as their predecessors because they’re privileged are, well, right. Fewer young people these days are driven by desperation to work in less-than-ideal jobs thanks to the hard work of their parents.

Bluntly speaking, that’s not great for employers. But at least for those job seekers who do desperately need to find work, it means fewer candidates to compete with.

Why do you think twenty-somethings are giving up on their job searches? Are they just lazy? Share your opinions in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.