Transitioning: Being someone from the Gen Y group Joseph, 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?
Joseph: I think that Asia is well poised for growth at the moment and this would give me a good start to my career. When it comes for the retirement age of people in Gen X, it is ultimately people from our Generation Y which will take over.
While I may have the privilege of having a good university education under the sponsorship of my loving mother, I cannot say the same for native Singaporean middle-class youths. It would seem that most of them go on to polytechnics and end up struggling with a starting pay of $1700 with the more accomplished ones going to university but facing a hefty loan when they graduate.
Despite their sacrifices in National Service, this is in contrast to the government’s policies of letting in liberal ASEAN, Chinese and Indian scholars, paying a good 6-figure sum for their studies and essentially giving them jobs without bonds when they graduate. We have to stand up against the PAP government and make sure that Singaporeans benefit from the growth first.
Transitioning: 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?
Joseph: My professional degree will mean that I can secure a well-paying job without having to fear retrenchment even in a bad climate.
But that does not mean that all is well with the importation of cheap foreign labour. While they go towards to supplementing some of the labour requirements, it is clear that the negative externalities they bring far outweigh their benefits. They can be blamed for a range of problems, ranging from putting off productivity enhancing upgrades to depressing wages. As I will argue below in Question 5, their presence also ties us down to competition in a corporate rat race.
Transitioning: After seeing so many record breaking divorces in our country for the past few years, does this statistics frighten you from tying the knot with someone?
Joseph: This is a phenomenon which is not just prevalent in Singapore but all over the world. I think that as attitudes open up, most people would rather not put up with a marriage purely out of commitment when the love has faded.
Personally, I see this – and even welcome it – as a new paradigm. At the end of the day, it is about choosing the right partner and planning the marriage well. Managing one’s finances, health and friendships outside will go a long way.
Transitioning: In your opinion, what do you think is the greatest obstacles facing marriages right now?
Joseph: The main reason is that Singaporean women are getting more and more career focused, with some putting off marriage beyond their child-bearing years to focus on their careers.
While this may seem like a choice, even those who would like to get married are severely restricted due to the sky high HDB prices. While inflation is a common phenomenon in the world, the exponential increase is largely in part due to poor planning and will only result in a vicious spiral.
Transitioning: 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?
In fact, many people I know are essentially doing so even though they may prefer a slower pace of life. This only because they are held financially hostage, having to feed their families and satisfy their debt commitments in part because the ever-rising cost of living.
What is made worse is that the labour importation causes them job insecurities in that they can be replaced with only a months’ notice and are thus unable to choose a middle-ground, unlike 10 years ago where one could choose to maintain a work-life balance and have a slower career progression if they so want.
Transitioning: 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?
Joseph: I think most youths from the Gen Y choose to work smart rather than hard so I only agree to a small extent that we are not a tough as people from Gen X. While most people from Gen X focus on hard skills, most of the people from Gen Y are focusing on soft-skills and inter-personal communication. They may ultimately end up being less tough but this does not affect their effectiveness as individuals or as professionals.
End of interview and thank you.
Editor’s Note: Interviewee is studying accountancy second year in a local university.