“In order to build successful local brands, our young people need to have the hunger to create value, rather than simply access it” (Why A Safe Job Is Risky Business For Singapore, Devadas Krishnadas).
In an environment characterised by pragmatism, the call for young Singaporeans “to have the hunger to create value, rather than simply access it” (ST, Jul. 24) feels like an impossible situation. Mr. Devadas Krishnadas – co-founder and CEO of consultancy Future-Moves – further argued that “to build successful local brands, our young people need to have the hunger to create value, rather than simply access it”, and that the pervasive risk aversion deprives small businesses of talents, and as a consequence limits the expansion of these enterprises and their ability to entrench themselves “in both local and international markets”.
His proposals however – shifting mindsets, right-sizing the demand for labour in the civil service, introducing greater competition for entrepreneurs, and inuring individuals to failure – are far from groundbreaking, and the more intrinsic shifts, for instance, are easier said than done.
A more realistic outlook is needed. A young, pragmatic generation of Singaporeans may make logical decisions based on a risk-return trade-off, but these higher returns do not necessarily take the form of generous benefits or remuneration. To compensate for the risk of working in a smaller company or within a disruptive industry, many wish to be nudged out of their comfort zones, and to benefit from exposure, mentorship, or growth. Although employers should empathise that in a country where the cost of living – and raising a family – is high, the occasional focus on monetary gains also stems from the demands for financial security.
And this is especially relevant, if young Singaporeans need more time to decide for the future. Many are also cognisant of the privileges their parents never had – to choose from a wider variety of jobs in an economy with low unemployment rates, and opportunities to explore endeavours before making decisions – and hence are more deliberate. The desire to create value, and by implication the willingness to take some risks, takes time too. Many from the older generations, who are now on the road less travelled, started off with careers in the public service on bonded scholarships or fast-paced openings in multi-national corporations. They too took some time to figure out their strengths and preferences, and accumulated some capital before taking their leaps.
I make no apologies for my generation. From an anecdote Mr. Krishnadas reckons that more of us need to create value – not just access it – yet the latter appears to be a constructive platform for the former, and even if preceding generations may have had the same mindsets too. Moreover, a fledging tech and startup ecosystem in Singapore could provide evidence to the contrary. We tread ahead into an ambiguous future with the same insecurities and anxieties, so give us some time and space. We will figure this out, eventually.
A version of this article was published in The Straits Times.