Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Thursday January 24th 2019

Joblessness Surrounding Our Small Nation

As I went to meet friends over the Lunar Chinese New Year, I detected that there was a climate of fear that spread around us. The central topic seems to be jobs jobs jobs or the loss of it.

A Filipna PR friend just lost her job on Friday and was dazed as we spoke. Sensing her desperation, I tried to help her to find work as a special needs teacher with a voluntary welfare organisation. Yet another friend told me his father was laid off in the construction sector Рhe is already in his 60s. Another friend working in Shanghai for the past few years was also laid off on the auspicious day on 31 Dec.  He told me that he felt a sense of loss and fear at not having prepared adequately for the retrenchment. I guess he felt betrayed and sad that the company had axed him as he has worked very hard for the company travelling round China to do sales for them.

Many others also expressed fear that they will be the next to go as the recession deepends over time. Many have begin to lay off expensive purchases and focus just on neccesities. It is not surprising that as I went about the shopping malls, many simply windown shopped without actually buying anything at all.

The Filipina friend¬† who was laid off after having worked only for eight months as an administrator with the company told me¬† “Last in first out,” ¬†when I asked her how she felt. She sort of expected it I guess.

She was fortunate to be paid one month salary in lieu of notice but was only given less than an hour notice about her impending job loss. I always wonder why our local companies are so harsh on the way they laid off workers. It is as if the workers will sabotage the company if they are retrenched so that they can take revenge on the company.

In Australia, an engineer friend of mine was laid off due to a merger but was given one month’s notice i.e. he is allowed to work on for that one month. The retrenched workers of eight were also given additional support through an outsource consultant. They have support sessions together and my friend told me that he benefitted from such sessions alot. He later found a job through his own contact and managed even to get a pay raise! He was only jobless for a total of three weeks. How fortunate!

More of such bad news on retrenchment will filter to the country as we hear of this friend being lay off and that relative will be retrenched soon. I really have no answer to how we can help them other than providing a good listening ear to them and sometimes a shoulder for them to cry on. Man I feel especially needs such support here as they find it hard to ask for help. It could be due to our cultural perception that man can handle everything on their own and seeking help is seen as a weakness. It is thus not surprising that in our family service centres, most women are the ones that seek counselling suuport. Man remains a minority group that seeks assisatnce from counsellors.

I remember when I was jobless, a few friends rallied round me and some even offered me financial assistance when times were really bad. My church group also supported me and I have a platform for me to raise my concerns to my cell group weekly. They prayed and talked to me and though the journey was indeed tough going, I found support through their regular ministry. The whole episode also humbled me alot and I promised  myself during that fiery trial   that I will help others in similar situation when I have recovered.

Someone last week also¬† asked me: “How can I help the jobless then?” My reply to them was to¬† show them that you care and don’t over advise. Many voluntary helpers provide too much advice to the jobless and this can be seen as counter productive. The depressed unemployed do not need our advice but they surely need our ears and heart alot. By merely hearing them out and showing up to see them are seen as adequate. We don’t need to over-do things.

Many who are jobless, especially men, take it badly as it hits their ego hard. Man by nature often associated work with achievement especially in work-crazy Singapore.

We often take pride in our work and tie our ego to what we have done at work. Thus, for those who have climbed the corporate ladder through hard work and sacrifices, the fall will be deeper if he is retrenched. His whole being is crushed and often they lapse into depression and the rare few can land up as mental cases if depression lingers on for a lengthy period.

I always advocate that  those who are depressed due to retrenchment to seek counselling support. I was emotionally supported by a good counsellor friend of mine who did it out of his free will as I was in very bad shape then. He met me regularly and ofte we just chatted about normal issues. He hardly provided me with any advice per se to help me solve my problem. By simply showing up to meet me, he had already showed that he cared and concerned for me. To me, that was enough.

Without doubt, with a growing pool of unemployed population,  our counsellors here will be swarmed with endless appointments to see people needing help.

Friends of the jobless can chip in by providing a good listening ear and showing that you care and support them as they walk this stressful  journey of unemployment . My fear is that our young graduates who just come out of schools will find it tougher to adjust as they may have dreams of their own after graduation. Those who are sole breadwinners also will find the episode tough to handle as they need to put food on the table and still search for work that seems to be so scarce these days.

As many have lamented often that the worse is yet to come, let us hold each other hands and walk this arduous journey together. It is when we support one another that we find life’s struggles easier to bear.

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