It’s a half day for me in the office today because my division was given a half day off as a celebration of the Christmas weekend. But I’m still at my desk finishing up some work. After all, my wife, family and friends are still working and there’s no point in me leaving early if there’s no one for me to hang out with! I rather stay behind and take my time with the outstanding tasks that I will have to get to next week anyway after the Christmas break. This also leaves me with some time to put up a blog post before I head off to meet my wife later.
I was reading up on some of the recent articles on the Transitioning website, which is set up by Gilbert Goh to support people who are unemployed and underemployed. I do this often to get a sense of the difficulties and challenges they can face in Singapore. The unemployment rate in Singapore currently is low and it’s easy to forget about the jobless when you are surrounded by people who are employed.
A few consistent themes have surfaced over time when I read about their stories on the Transitioning website. There seems to be quite a bit of blame being put on foreigners for taking over the locals’ jobs. I guess this depends on the industry you work in but I can see it happening in the banking industry. Local banks probably have more of an emphasis on hiring Singaporeans while it is less of a priority at foreign banks. There are pros and cons of putting Singaporeans first in the job market so it depends on how you look at it.
After being retrenched, the Government job support programs are apparently not useful. Which can be a problem since there is no unemployment benefits in Singapore and you can run out of cash savings quite quickly if you are not prepared financially. I can see why all those job skills training and career support offered by the Government will have limited success. They can’t give you sufficient technical expertise and practical experience fast enough to change your career path and it doesn’t offer anything new that you already don’t know in your current career path.
A desperate solution that often comes up in times like this is migrating overseas, especially to a country like Australia. The idea is that since things can’t get any worse here in Singapore, you might as well leave for greener pastures. I don’t dispute that Australia has a lot to offer. After all, I studied and worked there for 7 years. But it only offers a nicer life if you are willing to try new things, change the way you live, get used to a different environment and stick it out to the end. Don’t be surprised if the situation can get worse from migration.
The thing people keep forgetting is that the factors for success such as attitude, behavior, effort, luck, background and environment are the same anywhere you are. Migration only changes your environment, just one factor of success among many. Yes, it can be the deciding one as to whether you make it but that’s not usually the case. I can actually give you a balanced opinion on this because I have lived in both Australia and Singapore.
When I was working in Australia, I was consistently told by my friends how tough the working conditions are and how long the working hours are in Singapore. That I was fortunate to have work-life balance in a country that respected reasonable working conditions and hours. They would go on about all the amazing things they have heard about life in Australia. As always, facts get embellished when you are talking about it versus living it. I had my problems too adjusting to a life in a foreign country with just my wife and little family & friends support infrastructure. I was relieved to have the work-life balance but it made discussing the other issues more difficult.
After I made my decision to return to Singapore, I was told how I had grown comfortable and laid back in Australia, which would severely impede my transition back here. This stemmed from their disbelief that I would give up a life in Australia that people want and come back to one that people want to get away from. I had to convince them that I wasn’t crazy and I could make it work. And we did after putting in quite a lot of time and effort. But it also came down to applying all of the factors for success again. It’s the same things that make migrating overseas and building a life here work. You just use everything you can and decide where you reckon you will be happier. This could even change as you enter different phases of your life, the path of which is almost always never in a straight line.