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YKA, Trends

SG Employment: Is there any chance of going back to the way things were?

The only topic at present competing with when a COVID19 vaccine is coming is unemployment. Official statistics revealed local unemployment in Q2 2020 at its highest in a decade.

Our latest YKA survey findings show that 33% of Singaporeans are now extremely worried about the level of unemployment while 39% are extremely worried about the possible level of unemployment over the next 6 months.

This month, we look at three key conversation points currently surrounding employment which reveal why we may have to look at employment in a whole new light moving forwards.

Conversation #1: Should Singapore provide universal unemployment benefits?

Senior Minister Tharman recently suggested some form of unemployment benefits may be required if unemployment levels stay high. However, Singaporeans appear lukewarm about extending the safety net, especially if they have to foot the bill.

When posed with a scenario of paying higher taxes to fund unemployment benefits:

  • Only 31% of Singaporeans feel those unemployed should receive financial support while looking for work, even if it means paying higher taxes. But support is higher among Gen Zs (37%) compared to the older Baby Boomers (23%)
  • 12% of Singaporeans disagree with unemployment benefits, as they believe there are enough training and job opportunities
  • 57% of Singaporeans believe in giving financial support to those unemployed, but not at the expense of themselves having to pay higher levels of tax

Conversation #2: Are current graduate job prospects as bad as some fear?

Another conversation is the extent to which current graduates are going to be impacted in the job market when organisations are looking to scale down and there is the prospect of some jobs moving overseas as a result of cost cutting and tougher Government policies regarding the employment of skilled foreigners.

Over one in four (27%) of Singaporeans are worried about employment prospects of graduates. As may be expected from a graduating cohort, this figure is considerably higher among Gen Zs (39%) than other age groups.

Those who recently graduated or are about to are showing signs of anxiety as they enter the labour market:

  • 62% are questioning the value of their degree
  • 66% are worried about their chances of finding work
  • 55% are willing to take a lower salary to simply get a job

Conversation #3: Is work from home (WFH) here to stay?

With work from home being extended full time into 2021 by some global companies, a key conversation is happening around where we will all work in the future. Are we really willing to go back to the workplace full time? And if not, what impact is this going to have on business practices?

According to our latest findings, 80% of working Singaporeans are still working from home to some extent. However, this proportion varies by household income with 88% of Singaporeans in high income households currently WFH, compared to only 71% in low income households. This may support the view that WFH may, longer term, turn out to be a privilege for some workers only.

Overall, 55% of working Singaporeans say WFH has had a positive impact on their health and well-being. However, it is a positive experience only for 42% of low income households, versus 60% of high income households. Similarly, WFH positively impacts only 31% of Baby Boomers compared to 60% of Gen Zs.

There are some indications that WFH fatigue may also be setting in:

  • 28% of Singaporeans say they are struggling to stay motivated working from home
  • 30% find it increasingly difficult to separate working days from non- working days
  • 1 in 10 feel that less face-to-face interactions with colleagues and bosses will have a negative impact on their career progression

These findings suggest we are a long way from sorting out the ‘rules of the road’ for WFH and much more public discussion needs to take place.

If you would like to know more about current trends on employment, please reach out to our Public Policy Director and employment research specialist, Jonathan Smetherham,