Which Side Of The Labour Market Are You On?
‘Getting a good job’ is one of the greatest preoccupations that the average Singaporean grows up and grows old with. That’s hardly a surprise, especially when you consider the fact that Singapore is one of the most expensive countries in the world and also happens to shun the idea of a minimum wage.
Not too long ago, The Straits Times published an article that talked about a two- track labour market in Singapore.
What does a two-track labour market mean?
Simply put, it’s the division of the labour market into two distinct sectors, one in which jobs are deemed as high-valued and skilled, and the other track referring to sectors which are deemed to have less value. They are on two different tracks because in the case of the high-valued sector, people are able to secure jobs which give them a steady rise in income.
On the other hand, job-seekers in the ‘low-value’ track have to contend with greater difficulties in securing jobs, in addition to the likelihood that the jobs they get would provide limited income progression or stability.
Let’s talk about jobs
According to the article by Straits Times, there were more unemployed Singaporeans and fewer job vacancies last year. We can still blame the slow economy for it for now, or we can look at the larger picture and recognise that in the future, the entire landscape of employment is going to look very different from what it is now. Take it from the visionaries, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, who gently reminded us that robots and automation will soon take over many jobs in future.
In fact, it isn’t even that difficult to see how quickly technologies have shaped industries.
The local taxi industry has just been disrupted by Uber and Grabcar, and we are already talking about the near future of driverless taxis.
So, just what can job-seekers do to stay on the right track of the labour market?
Being an entrepreneur is no longer just a hip ambition for the young. It may just be what you need to do to stay flexible and adaptable in a job market that’s fickle and uncertain.
If you’ve always associated entrepreneurship with start-up companies and multi-million dollar capital funding, then it’s time to rethink what it means to be entrepreneurial.
Starting a shop on Etsy, being a home baker, starting your photography business are all examples of enterprises that start small with the potential to grow and scale. With so many platforms and websites to help get your product or service on the market, starting with small steps has never been easier. If there are people who can get paid for being professional ‘queuers’, then really, there are no limits to what you can legally make money from.
Get used to being an eternal student
Gone are the days when a university degree is all the education you need and you never have to think about stepping into a classroom after your graduation. In order to not be made redundant in a heartbeat, you need to get used to the idea of constantly learning about new technology, trends, and ways of working.
Learning on the job itself may not be sufficient, as certain technical skills that are in-demand require certification and you may even be the one who is tasked to introduce new technology to your role or department.
Clearly, the Government recognises this and has introduced initiatives to get you back into the classroom. The National University of Singapore (NUS), for example, has introduced modules that alumni can now enroll for free for a limited time, and there is also the SkillsFuture programme that allows Singaporeans to use their credits and select from hundreds of courses available.
It’s not all about technology
You may be wondering if you’ll even find your place in the world with more outsourcing and automation. The good news is that being human is all the more important now and good people skills are increasingly being recognised as a crucial trait, no matter the level that you’re working at.
While more jobs get replaced by machines, there are certain jobs that are difficult to replace as they require human empathy. There may be amazing massage chairs, but we still go to our favourite masseuse who somehow cannot be replaced.
You can learn almost anything you want with videos, but it isn’t quite the same as having an inspirational and caring coach. It seems somewhat like a paradox, but the more efficient machines become at production, the more we become attracted to the human touch that goes not just into services but into your artisanal coffees and handmade clothing.
The economic outlook of a country impacts its job market, but which track of the supposed two-track labour market that you fall in ultimately depends on whether or not your skills are considered valuable and employable. Whether you’re about to embark on a career or are already established in one, the willingness to unlearn and relearn will be the key to ensure your professional longevity.