Transitioning (T): Being someone from the Gen Y group, do you feel that opportunities are now somewhat muted as both the babyboomers and Gen X have already gained a strong foothold in senior positions in the public and private sectors?
Amanda (A): I remember in the years of 2003 to 2007, the economy was booming. Back then, armed with only a diploma and no work experience, many peers managed to obtain managerial positions with good companies. With the economic crisis, the job market tightened and bars were raised. It became impossible to secure an interview unless you have a degree. Later, companies sought candidates with degree and experience. Now, even if you have a degree and work experience, your resume simply gets ignored.
What I am saying is that these people who started working at the right time in the right jobs and the right companies have their feet planted firmly on the career ladder whereas those who started a little later have missed the boat. So even among the Gen Y, there are people who are doing relatively well.
As for whether babyboomers and Gen X have squeezed out the Gen Y from the job market, it is a difficult question to answer as it is both yes and no. Jobs are being destroyed and created all the time. An obvious example that comes easily to mind would be a blogger.
T: I have heard from the Gen Y graduates that life is getting tougher here as they have to compete not only with their peers but also foreign talents, do you agreed with their views? Why so?
A: I disapprove of the term “foreign talent”. A foreigner is only a talent if he or she possesses a unique skill set, knowledge, experience that no Singaporean can ever hope to replicate. Is a pinoy cashier at Guardians pharmacy a foreign talent? Without talent, these foreigners are just… foreigners.
Foreigners have a major advantage over Singaporeans. Employees do not have to contribute to their CPF. Without this 13% tax, foreigners are cheaper to hire than Singaporeans. Once a foreigner gets employed, he begins to systematically drive away the locals. One of my friends saw his entire department replaced by Indian IT consultants before he called it quits and turned to teaching.
T: After seeing so many record breaking divorces in our country for the past few years, does these statistics frighten you from tying the knot with someone?
A: You know how people date? On the first date, they ask you what your job is, how much your monthly salary is, what your qualifications are, what your alumni is, what your parents do for a living among other things. I find most city folks very materialistic and will only consider you as marriage material provided you are from the correct family background, hold the correct job and the correct qualifications.
The statistics… well, I am willing to take a risk for a shot at happiness. I am now married to someone with similar moral values, family background, educational level and religion.
T: In your opinion, what do you think is the greatest obstacles facing marriages right now?
A: A lot of my friends dare not marry. Why? It is because they do not have proper jobs. Without a proper job, you cannot get your HDB loan approved. You cannot apply for a flat. Without a flat, couples will not get married. So perhaps, the greatest obstacle facing marriages right now is the rising home prices.
T: Many Gen Y have also told me that the work culture here is rather stifling, you work from day to night and during weekend you try to rest and prepare for the next week of onslaught – do you agree with them?
Let me share my personal experience.
I used to work from 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. from Monday to Friday. For Saturdays, I had to be at the office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Now, the actual working hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Friday and we are supposed to get the weekends off. However, the crippling sales target forces you to put in the necessary overtime. There is no overtime pay or transport reimbursement. Apparently, it is your own fault that you cannot meet the sky-high sales target, which, by the way, is a moving goalpost. Every time you come within striking distance of the sales target, it gets revised upwards to the next tier.
If you do not hit your sales target, you will be summoned for a “coffee session” with the manager where no coffee or manager is actually involved. If you do not hit your sales target, you will not be paid your commission. If you do not hit your sales target, you will be threatened with “we may not renew your contract”.
Sometimes, we may have to work for 13 days straight before getting a day off. Why? Because we have to work from Monday to Saturday and on Sunday, sometimes, we have to work at road-shows.
T: Recently, we have read of binge drinking among the young people here, what is your opinion on this and is this a growing trend among people that you know of?
A: Yes, it is true. We drink as we often feel helpless and unhappy. We cannot afford to drink too often though, as beer is expensive.
T: There is also this growing feeling that the Gen Y population here belongs to the strawberry generation and that they are not as tough as the babyboomers and Gen X, do you think so?
A: I object to the term “strawberry generation”. It is absolutely unfair, not to mention untrue, to say that we are soft and weak. While the earlier generations faced genuine hardships, every generation faces unique challenges as well. My generation today faces the maelstrom of technology, crippling student loans, unrealistic expectations from parents, lower wages coupled with rising costs of living and competition with foreigners for jobs. That is a different set of challenges altogether. On top of that, we are being labelled as “strawberries”! How stressful is that?
T: What do you think has really change after watching how your parents have toiled and brought you up – do you think this spirit of familial blissness may be missing in the younger set of families right now?
A: I have no idea what this bliss thing is like as I come from a broken home.
T: Many young people I met dream of emigration as a way out of this stressful environment, do you have the same thoughts?
A: I am not sure if moving overseas will secure a better future for me. After all, I would be a second-class citizen in a different country and it would be more difficult for me to compete with the locals. Unlike Singapore, other countries protect their citizens and make it troublesome for companies to hire foreigners. On the other hand, since being equipped with a degree, work experience and being multi-lingual seems to be utterly worthless in this country, it may be better for me to try my luck someplace else.
Editor’s Note: Amanda is a graduate but has little luck in the current employment sector so she relies on tutoring to get by.