Opinion

Do Singaporean Millennials Really Have a Reason to Be Gloomy?

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Joanne Poh

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There are many good things to be said about Singaporeans—hard-working, unaggressive and rule-abiding. But cheery and optimistic are definitely not Singaporean traits.

So it wasn’t really that surprising to read this recent report which declared that Singaporean millennials are amongst the world’s gloomiest. Apparently, about 50% of the millennials surveyed felt very pessimistic about the immediate future of their careers, fearing that they would not be able to replace their incomes within three months should something happen to their jobs.

14% of Singapore millennials also thought they’d be working till their dying day, a worry that’s probably been exacerbated by the number of old people working in menial jobs all over the island.

This is particularly worrying as Singaporean millennials were found to be working a very high average of 48 hours a week, tying for second place with Mexico, Switzerland and China, with only Indian millennials working longer hours. Working till you die is one thing—clocking 48 hours a week till you kick the bucket is another.

So is all this pessimism really warranted? Here are some things to consider before you decide to launch yourself into full panic mode.

 

There are growing industries to take advantage of

For every millennial who’s fretting about robots taking over his job, or all the MNCs in his industry relocating to India because it’s cheaper, there’s another who’s quietly taking advantage of opportunities in growing industries like Fintech and healthcare to carve out a burgeoning career.

For those who are flexible and resourceful enough to put themselves on the right path, or to switch paths when they’ve realised they’re in a sunset industry, there will be opportunities.

We’re nowhere near as jialat as countries like Greece, Italy and Japan (the only countries found to be “gloomier” than Singaporeans in the above survey) in terms of unemployment and access to opportunities.

Companies in these growth industries, such as Fintech startups, digital marketing firms and game design studios, are not only hiring aggressively right now, but also tend to maintain the kind of working environment millennials crave—eg. a “cool” office culture that doesn’t involve clothes from G2000.

The reason this freaks out many millennials is that we’ve been raised to think of careers as a straight and narrow path. Graduate, find work in an MNC, and then climb the corporate ladder to the top. Throw a spanner in the works, like job loss or the realisation that their role is now obsolete in Singapore, and the machine breaks down.

It is the refusal to veer off a pre-determined path that is at the root of millennials’ worries. Much has been said about the key growth industries, and those that are on the way down.

You don’t necessarily need to go back to university to join them—banking professionals can join Fintech startups (like, cough cough, MoneySmart), while marketing folks can gain expertise by handling accounts or joining companies in one of the key growth industries, for instance.

 

Stable political environment

A lot has been said about how Singapore’s glory days are over, and how the road ahead is going to be a lot tougher moving forward. People panic about how our Southeast Asian neighbours are going to eclipse us in the next few decades, even as MNCs migrate out of Singapore to set up shop in cheaper countries.

But we forget the one thing we’ve got going for us—a stable political environment.

This will not only ensure we don’t entirely drop off the map when it comes to being business- and investment-friendly, but also means that young Singaporeans can focus on growing their careers without worrying that civil or political unrest will throw their plans off kilter or wreck the economy.

 

Regional opportunities

We all have friends who started their careers in Singapore and are now working abroad. Even those who are still based here often work with counterparts in London, New York or Mumbai.

Many MNCs’ regional headquarters are based in Singapore, which translates to ample opportunities to broaden your exposure to different markets.

For many bank employees, that has given them the opportunity to get posted to offices in Hong Kong or Shanghai, or to work with and eventually oversee teams in these markets.

But such opportunities aren’t limited to banks. Google, Facebook, Booking.com and Agoda maintain Singapore offices, while many local startups have begun to expand into overseas markets.

In addition, we have the advantage of proficiency in English, which removes a hurdle that natives of non-English speaking countries face when trying to get international exposure.

So should Singaporean millennials worry about the future? Well, as with all personal finance matters, you need to know what you want and set goals to achieve it. The ones who should be worrying are those who just blindly do their jobs, hoping they’ll wake up one sweet day and it’ll be time to retire.

What are your biggest worries about the future? Tell us 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.