A woman PMET recently emailed me saying that she has tendered her resignation as a administrator after working for less than two months.
She informed me that since day one of her job, she hardly left the office before 9 pm.
There were times that she left the office close to midnight as they were rushing through a pile of back log.
I supported her decision to quit even though I am not someone who backed job hopping.
I also realised that the pay is not an issue as she never brought it up before.
Sad stories of our over-worked exploited PMETs
Besides not being able to claim over time due to her salary scale, she was shouted at by her boss if could not finish her work by the dead line given.
Turn over was also high and new staff kept replacing those who are leaving after working for just a few months – some even left after working for a few weeks.
Life must be horrifying inside…
Apparently, there must be some serious sytemic operational faults within the company that resulted in such high staff turnover but its amazing why the company didn’t try to address the manpower issue despite the high turnover rate.
Companies who kept rehiring to replace outgoing staff too frequently – without trying to pinpoint the operational and management faults – run the risk of being too well known in the employment market for all the wrong reasons.
Outgoing staff will definitely not speak well of the companies and recruitors will also not recommend any staff to the company as it will affect their bottom line.
Recruiting agencies here have a policy of providing a replacement if staff they refer quit within the first three months or else their compensation will be crawled back.
Yet on another case of over-worked resignation saga – a IT software engineer who wanted to quit recently was told to wait for three months by the recruitment agency and another one month as required by the company.
After working more than ten months and chalking up daily 12-hour work and frequent unpaid weekend over-time, the executive finally decided to throw in the towel but was held back by the discriminating recruitment company’s guideline.
“I have to wait for four months before I am free from the torrid work culture.” he confided in me.
Yet another administrative lady PMET emailed me last week sharing that her probation was extended by another three months from the original three months and she was warned to buck up or ship out by her tyrant lady manager.
I was told that the manager used the probation extension trick quite often to harass junior staff to compliant with exploitative work conditions.
I advised her to stay on her toes and try to look around just in case.
Employers have used the threat of probation extension to squeeze out every ounce of blood from their staff and employees fearing that they will lose their jobs will abide by whatever exploitative work conditions laid down just to clear the probation phase.
Extension of probation period is not only demoralising for the worker but also make them feel unappreciated and unrecognised.
Having work for more than 20 years in my career, I knew that certain work culture is almost deprived of any human touch and the manager will not care less if you have spent less than an hour at home after work.
They want your body, soul and even blood if necessry to finish up your work at the office.
Many work from 8.30am to 9 pm daily without any reprieve in sight and the next incoming worker who replaces the dried-out warrior will have to perform the same torrid routine.
There is no desire from the management to improve work conditions whatsoever and more seriously nothing in legislation to protect our workers from being exploited.
Many PMETs are not unionised and thus employers know that they have practically zero rights when it comes to work conflict arbitration.
Transitioning has met many PMETs who informed me that even when they brought their work dispute to MOM, they were often left in a lurch and was advised to seek their own legal recourse.
All work no play makes Jack a dull boy
Research has shown that the human body and mind could not function properly if he has to consistently work over time – even though the pay is good and he genuinely likes his job.
A proper work life balance of equal time spent with family, loved ones, hobbies and self could lead to higher productivity for the worker and a lessening job hopping problem.
Workers from the Generation Y group will not hesitate throw in the towel if they are over-worked due to a vastly-improved employment environment.
Being single and without much commitment besides tending to their own needs, young executives probably form the main bulk of those who will readily quit if they are being forced to work too much over-time.
Many belonging to this group are also pampered by their families and though well educated they seldom want to work very hard to achieve what they want unlike their predecessors who are more ready to sweat for their future.
Many are also accused of not being hungry enough compared to those who hailed from third workd countries.
I have seen some of the Generation Y resumes and many do not work for more than two years max in one job.
Many have tried to look for greener pastures abroad eventually causing a brain drain to occur which will also hamper our population growth in the long term.
Moving forward, in order to appease the work life balance desires of our growing Generation Y group, MOM must take a serious look into better protecting our executives or else the country will face the ominous migrating exodus of this important group.
MOM guidelines irrelevant
The Manpower Ministry (MOM) has laid down employment guidelines for a 44-hour work week but its is seldom adhered to in the work-crazy local environment here.
An employee covered by Part IV of the Employment Act is not required under his/her contract of service to work more than eight hours in a day or 44 hours in a week.
- The limit of eight hours per day may be exceeded when an employee is not required to work more than five days a week. However, he/she is not required to work for more than nine hours per day or 44 hours in a week.
- If the number of hours worked is less than 44 hours every alternate week, the limit of 44 hours a week may be exceeded in the other week. However, this must be stated in the contract of service and is subject to a maximum of 48 hours in one week or 88 hours in any continuous two week period.
A shift worker is allowed to work up to 12 hours a day, provided that the average working hours each week do not exceed 44 over a continuous three week period.
If the employee’s rest day falls on a day other than a Sunday, the employer is required to prepare a monthly roster and inform him of his rest days for the month at the beginning of each month.
Small and medium companies (SME) are worse to work in as bosses tend to micro-managed and drive workers like slaves to complete dead-lines.
I have met some SME bosses who complained to me that they could not find local PMETS to work for them and so they have petitioned to MOM for foreign workers.
Paying salaries that are very much below market rate and with sub-par office environment, it is no wonder that foreign workers form the bulk of their work force.
Singapore workers work the longest hours and yet the least productive
Singaporean workers also have the dubious honour of working the longest hours in the world – we work 2,307 hours in 2009.
Clocking 2,307 work hours in 2009 – a number that apparently has stayed constant since 1992, according to The Conference Board’s data – the average Singaporean surpassed the other East Asians, the most hardworking globally (Asiaone).
Singapore’s ‘constant’ 2,307 annual hours exceeded Korea’s in 2008. For 2009, Korea’s 2,259 work hours fell behind even Hong Kong’s 2,287 hours. Taiwan clocked in at 2,156 hours, while Japan’s 1,722 is close to the US level (1,742 hours).
Apart from the East Asians, virtually everyone else (except Greece, Chile and Mexico) put in fewer than 2,000 hours a year, with many well under.
More worryingly, our productivity has dropped drastically even though we have put in the most hours globally.
The Conference Board study – which covers various economic indicators for more than 120 economies – tracks productivity by two measures: GDP per person employed and GDP per hour worked (Asiaone) shows that with productivity ‘growth’ of minus 14.2 per cent in 2009 (in GDP per employee terms), Singapore has the poorest number not only in Asia but worldwide.
Average productivity growth across East Asia and the Pacific in 2009 was 2.4 per cent, and minus one per cent worldwide.
After some fairly good strides over the decade – as high as almost 7 per cent in 2004 – Singapore’s TFP growth plunged from 3.9 per cent in 2007 to minus 4.9 per cent in 2008.
The current huge foreign influx could be one major reason why Singapore’s productivity has slipped so much as efficiency wise, foreign workers are not as proficient and highly-rated as our own local workers.
It goes to show also that productivity does not equate in direct proportion to the hours that you put in.
Proper work life balance is equally important and a over-worked worker who sold his soul to the company may not be the most productive one on the office’s payroll.
Civil service works equally hard if not harder
Many will be surprised to know that the civil service works equally hard compared to those belonging to the private sector.
Just ask our teachers, police officers, army personnel and you will get the message.
I have worked in the CDC for a while and found that many staff works beyond the 44 weekly hours. There are weekend and Saturday duties to cover and often there is no over time claim due to our pay structure.
I am probably the only one who tried to leave the office on the dot as I need to fetch my daughter from the daycare centre but was chastised by the director during a adverse performance appraisal exercise.
I still remembered her telling me that if I need to stay back till midnight to finish my work I have to do so.
I was naturally shocked by her remark and chose to quit from the CDC due to other reasons as well.
I felt that more could be done to help our PMETs as they were focusing alot on helping the less-educated and merely trying to keep proper records on the unemployed than actually actively helping them.
Resumes were filed away in cold storage and by now many PMETs who have approached CDCs for assistance would know of the deafening silence from CDC career consultants.
Not only are CDC officers unskilled in proper career counselling but the official message is to assist the less educated.
Caliberlink now has taken over the job of helping the well educated jobseekers.
Though the civil servants have the priviledge of being adequately protected by proper labour legislation, the civil service is probably one place that works as hard if not harder than the private sector.
So if you think that you can relax by working for the government, think twice…
Adequate family time spent with loved ones, physical exercise and time out to enjoy his favourite hobbies are probably important elements to consider if the company wants to have a productive and efficient worker – be it from the civil or private sector.
Comparison of Asian with European working hours
Compared to those who have worked in the European Union, Asians must have being the most hard working globally.
According to a UK 2011 report from Office of National Statistics, the Danes worked the least hours in full time employment - 39.1 hours per week followed by the Irish at 39.7 hours.
The Austrians and Greek worked the longest hours at 43.7 hours per week.
Talent management company Lumesse polled about 4,000 employees from a wide variety of industries and found the average Singaporean worker to be the least happy among 14 countries polled.
Only 17 per cent of Singapore’s workforce see themselves staying with their current employer forever. The global average is 35 per cent (stjobs.sg).
At the same time, only 19 per cent of those polled in Singapore look forward to their work each day, compared to the global average of 30 per cent.
When it comes to positive and supportive workplaces, only a paltry 12 per cent vouch that they exist in Singapore. Globally, 20 per cent believe so.
As Singapore struggles with another more serious labour issue of foreign influx, it will be a imperative for the government to come up with proper labour laws to protect the local workers as so far it has being very pro-employer in its legilsation.
It will also have it’s work cut out to restore the high productivity tag back to the average Singaporean worker as the foreign worekr may not be able to perform as efficiently as our locals.
Companies need to think of ways to maximise the work force not with hiring more cheap foreign workers but to really properly incentivise their current workforce to be more productive.
We all know that working hard does not equate to being more productive as we have this dubious paradoxical honour of putting in the most hours globally and yet registering the lowest productivity worldwide.
Moving forward, the country needs to come to terms with a developed foreign-local workforce that will clamour for more workers’ rights and proper work life balance.
If companies still could not reconcile with this fact, the high turnover rate will persist with drastic adverse consequences for the country.
Written by: Gilbert Goh