Dear Minister Ng,
Thank you for your open letter to all working Singaporeans. I am glad to hear that you’ve been going around to visit Singaporeans at their workplaces.
You are right to point out that we are living in a fast-changing world and we have to constantly learn on the job. I have a friend who kept encouraging us to second-skill in case robots take over our jobs one day. We laughed and didn’t think much of it but hey, in all seriousness, she actually made a good point.
Technology is already replacing some mundane jobs today.
Redmart for example, used to have quality assurance managers who would manually record temperature readings in the warehouse and input the data in an Excel spreadsheet. Today, that entire process has been cleverly automated by a forecasting tool. Unless the quality assurance managers had equipped themselves with other skills or found other ways to provide value to their company, they would have been made obsolete.
I see many of our generation expecting ideal working conditions from employers. We value finding a job that we are passionate about and at the same time, pays well enough for us to enjoy the occasional luxuries of travel and have leftovers to give back to our parents and fund our savings.
As a millennial myself, I admit that many of us need to understand that nobody owes us a living. We have to be versatile and adaptable in venturing into roles that aren’t our main strengths. We have to be more prepared to take on higher-value jobs to make ourselves indispensable. This is the future of work.
But what if the pioneers of Singapore have no place in this future? It cannot be the future of a select few. It has to be a future for all Singaporeans.
While our millennial generation embrace digital disruptions, we know that the middle-aged and seniors will be hit the hardest. Thank you for remembering our pioneers because in time to come, we will become pioneers ourselves and we definitely don’t want a precedence where seniors are forgotten.
The middle-aged group will already be earning a comfortable sum every month, enough to support their growing children and aging parents. If they lose their jobs, they have more to lose than the people of our generation who adopt the “YOLO” mantra of living. Furthermore, they have to once again contend for a new job with the pool of younger generation workers.
So you are right to point out the imperative need for everyone to never stop learning, upgrade our skills and train. If people are willing to second-skill, it will help them stay nimble in the face of disruptions.
I’m glad that you are also emphasising the need for employers to play their part in embracing the “plug, train and play” mindset. If employers are only hiring workers who have the relevant skills of today, they are ignoring workers who have the potential and possibilities of tomorrow.
Senior workers who want to work face a different kind of challenge. How do we nudge them along and not leave them behind as the society progresses?
I mean, have you seen that 70-year-old granny who has been delivering food on foot? She is a great example of why we should rethink and redesign jobs for elderly. If they find learning a chore – how can we change the way they view learning? How can we help them take on less mundane jobs yet more value-adding jobs?
It’s certainly not easy looking after all segments of working people – the young, the not so young, the middle-aged and seniors. As our labour workforce evolves and matures, the needs of each working group will differ as well.
It is heartening to know that you are looking into all these concerns that Singaporeans have been lamenting for years. I commend your promise on being more progressive to improve our livelihoods, and I do hope that you continue to commit on making this real with us.
We look forward to seeing you around!
– From a hopeful millennial
This article is contributed by a guest writer, Ling.
(Header Image Credit: Minister Ng Chee Meng’s Facebook page)