Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Jobhunt Thoughts.

Was toying with the idea of titling this post "Intertemporal Substitution of Labour", but I know that would lose at least half the readers immediately.

But that is what this post is about. The fancy words are used by economists to try to explain why when wage levels change, people's attitude to working harder or working less does not always change proportionally. The theory is that people will try to maximise their income over a long lifetime. Lots of difficult formulas and big words, but that is the general idea. [ I await a complex and detailed explanation from economics-trained readers as comments. ]

From a personal angle. When wages fall below a certain level it actually does not make sense to work. I am skint and am falling deeper into debt each day I stay out of work, but it would be suicide to take on a job below a certain wage level. If the revenue is insufficient to pay for my share of my family expenses, insurance, credit card bills, and living expenses and I get locked into an employment contract.. I would actually be worse off when I started at end of the contract. Which was one of the reasons why I
walked away from the last job. I lost previous jobs when my employers downsized and/or moved operations to lower-cost locations. [ My siblings are picking up my share of the family expenses currently. Payback time for when I was sole stable breadwinner when they were finishing their education - but the stress there is accumulating too. ]

I have been keeping away from people since
my last outburst. Nobody likes hanging around a brooding and potentially-explosive bum. The source of frustration is not so much with the stress (boredom) of unemployment, but for the lack of income. With the clock ticking away, there is very little I can do to move towards the goal of getting D. a PR visa when I cannot even help with raising the fees for a skills assessment (which is the first step in the process).

D. almost set me off again when she was pinging me over IM about a job lead with a local system integrator that pays around S$2000. I had just got off the phone with a recruiter offering me a one-year temporary contract as a entry-level network administrator paying S$2200. When I turned down the offer for an interview (unless the price was raised), the recruiter got miffed and told me off saying that if I was not interested she had a lot of fresh graduates including a PRC Masters degree scholar who would jump at the job. [ The client requirements included work experience with regional networks, ability to interface with senior management, and strong communicaton skills with a good command of English. ]

Two-and-half years of National Service. Seven bloody years of working with datacom equipment, working as a regional troubleshooter, even running my own (small) product and support team - and now I get threats of getting displaced by a PRC scholar with a education paid for by the Singapore government using my income and consumption taxation money?

Working regular hours as a minimum wage cashier at Woolies in Perth would give me slightly below A$1800 a month (after tax), as compared to the S$1800 I would be making as a skilled computer technician here in Singapore. So you can understand why my blood boils when I read of our "more than S$1,000,000 per year" Ministers being quoted in our national media on:

Asked if the new rule to let companies hire more foreign workers will further widen the gap [in employment growth between locals and foreigners], Aljunied GRC MP Cynthia Phua said most companies prefer to hire locals and that it is the workers who are fussy. [ emphasis mine ]


However as D. would gently remind me (after letting me rant out of steam), getting indignantly upset over the matter is only a waste of energy and does no good to address the situation.

One of the dangers of a long period of unemployment is that I will vacillate between despair and depression. For example, I have not sent out even one resume in the last two days - choosing to sit around feeling sorry for myself and angry at the world. And that really drains off any remaining energy or enthusiasm for the repetitive job hunting process.

So to defeat the expert procrastinator in me, I have set myself a new goal. To send out a thousand resume. Yes, a thousand. At a rate of ten a day (depending on availability of suitable positions in the papers and online job databases), it should take around another three to four months. And announcing this online and updating the numbers on a public website should be sufficient incentive to keep me motivated and honest about my job hunting efforts. At the very least, I can count on everybody reading to to prod me (hard) when I start slacking off the process and feeling sorry for myself!

Why the specific target of a thousand job leads pursued?

The logic being that if I still cannot land a job at a resonable pay level after a thousand attempts at generating job leads - I will take it as conclusive proof that the Singapore job market cannot / will not pay for my skill sets at the requested wage level.

And if I have to re-skill and start from scratch in the workforce anyway, I might as well do it somewhere else where I will have a better shot at pursuing my dreams. Without having to quantify them in an economic marketplace, in a society where materialism and consumerism has replaced idealism. Or as budak puts it so eloquently:

we spoke of shuttered paths that young spirits are compelled to take and the freedom of knowing no attachment but the call of pecuniary opportunities. What use is there now for dreams forged in playrooms and a passion for mastery, when the wiles of minds are tethered to a flag that flutters to the tune of financial storms?
- from The Annotated Budak, entry
Midnight and the heart is astir
However the accelerated timeline to relocate would come at a huge emotional cost - long distance separation from the lady of my life. I do not how (or if) I will be able to handle that. Our past experiences have already shown that I generally do badly without D. by my side.

So when I read the email from
Wenjie (posted in comments of Fragments 02), I can empathise. The year apart from his wife, the job insecurity and having to re-tools from scratch in terms of job skill-sets. It is indeed overwhelming enough to make a person decide to take the default path of least resistance. In a sense I am more fortunate. If I am forced to have to start all over again (knowing what I know now) career-wise, I might as well choose a different starting location. And with better weather to boot!

So to all fellow emigrants in progress, and those considering emigration, I end this entry reproducing the obnoxious post of this provocative troll on the Sammyboy forums titled Losers Please Leave S'pore.

It always amuses me how losers in S’pore always threaten to migrate. These losers have crap jobs, no career prospects and deep loathing of the PAP, and are generally in the below $4000 per month income range. These losers have inflated illusions of their economic worth! They are not your high-flying bankers, govt scholars, corporate executives and so on – the very movers and shakers of S’pore. These folks are the ones who have made it, and are happy in S’pore. I’m very pleased to be a S’pore citizen and have no wish to migrate because I have a great job, live in a nice condo, drive a nice car – why the heck would people like me want to migrate?

Only losers who cannot cut it here believe that the grass is greener on the other side. Somehow they got it in their minds that they are not given what they deserve in life. These losers are different from capable S’poreans who choose to work overseas in order to prove their mettle against the best in the world.

If these losers look deep down, they'll realise their migration boast is just empty talk. Most lack the courage and balls to make that final leap because in their heart of hearts they know they can't hack it in a foreign land. They lack the guts and drive of your Vietnamese, PRC or Korean migrants.

To the losers, I say stop whining and please migrate. The space you leave behind can be better filled by hardworking PRCs. As public service, I’ve noted some weblinks for migration to Canada, US, Australia and NZ – the most popular destinations. If you think these countries will accept losers like yourself, please go. Put your money where your mouth is. S’pore will progress at a faster rate without whining losers to hold it back.

- from Sammyboy forums thread
Losers Please Leave S'pore


Blogger Patricea Chow said...

Employer wants your set of skills, but is willing to pay $500 less than what it's worth. So they hire one of several job-hungry fresh graduates who accepts the entry level pay because he/she needs the cash to pay off the study loan. Then employer proceeds to gripe about the sub-standard results and the employee becomes disgruntled.

This problem cames about because there is a larger supply of graduates than available jobs. Hence the pay scale remains pathetic. It's an employer's market really. I know because I'm facing the same situation now.

March 16, 2005 11:21 PM  
Blogger Singapore Calamari said...

Hey ! Don't Fret ! I support you all the way.

Many people say Singaporeans are fussy. I firmly believe they have every right to be.

Who are they ones who "brainwashed" people to buy flat, buy car, have kids ? These things are so expensive, and property prices are so "inflated" that they are working damn hard and paying through their noses.

Public transport fares up, petrol up, conservancy charges up, minister pay back up. School fees up, Uni fees up, what else ?

So, why should they settle for lower pay ? Unless the govt is willing to, somehow, lower all these expenses and "assets" that are so encouraged by them.

However, it is true and I have been seeing more and more technical jobs (especially in IT) being outsourced to India or China, closing their offices in Singapore.

Those that are still physically located in Singapore, are "outsourcing" to Indians and PRCs physically in Singapore too.

Of course, every employer is looking to cut down cost.


Globalization ? Countries like US, Canada, EU, Australia, all do not give out PRs and Work Permits as easily as Singapore. They still do their part to protect and help their own citizens.

Not happy then leave ? Not easy. But all the FTs in Singapore ? If not happy, can leave anytime. Come into Singapore difficult meh ?

These scholars and what-nots are having it good now. For their sake, lets hope that civil service do not outsource so much within their useful lifetime.

And if they are affected, I will never ever pity those people.

March 17, 2005 12:04 AM  
Blogger Jeff! Lim said...

under ordinary circumstances, i would be tempted to gripe but... ur SO is right, u know. But of course, this is easier said than done...

March 17, 2005 12:04 AM  
Blogger Jeff! Lim said...

Singapore Calamari, ur comments remind me of an old article that i once wrote. Perhaps u might care to read it? Part humour, part satire. Have fun!! :)

March 17, 2005 12:11 AM  
Blogger AcidFlask said...

liminal (adj.) Relating to a threshold. Perhaps the word you might be looking for?

March 17, 2005 3:38 AM  
Blogger AcidFlask said...

Another comment; not mean to irritate you but just to compound your point: I am earning more as a teaching assistant/graduate student than for any entry-level job that I had heard of back in SG. And it has always been a standing joke that graduate students are the brokest people around. Go figure.

March 17, 2005 4:01 AM  
Blogger C said...

You know i left because i thought the grass was greener on the other side. I had no illusions about my economic worth. To be truthful i thought then, and still do think to some extent, that i would have it better in Singapore. Higher pay, better prospects, all in the good old motherland.

I came here expecting to work my arse off past uni for equivalent wages/salary. But i expected to be happier doing it. For a while i was washing/cleaning (essentially, that's what a detailer is, glamourized car cleaner) cars for a living. 8 - 5 everyday for 5 months.

I loved it. They worked me hard and i actually looked forward to going into work everyday. Would i have said the same thing if i'd been detailing back in the motherland? I don't think so. The essential thing about having left was that Singapore was for a long time, even as a child, stifling my optimism, to quote Schoolgirl.

You can go through shit, but you need to have something, anything ineffable, to live for. That was what leaving did for me. It made me want to leave.

So after my lower wages, being a "second class citizen" (a dumbass excuse many S'poreans give when they're too chicken shit to admit that reasonably enough, leaving gives them the jitters. Because it IS possible to feel worse in your own country than in someone else's), fuck all job prospects, dammit, for some the grass IS still as green as it was when it was on the other side of the fence.

What's individual economic viability when you wake up every morning, take a deep breath and go "i'm so fucking glad i'm alive"?

Never felt anything like it in my life.

March 17, 2005 6:13 AM  
Anonymous bohemianlisa said...

KoP, yeah, will make sure you don't fall off the resume-sending wagon!

It's just plain ignorance ignorant for some people to look down on others that are struggling to survive. Though I'm just a PR, I love Singapore. I love how PAP modernise Singapore and put it at the top of the chart in term of efficiency. I felt safe in Singapore. I spent my best years in Singapore. But I've also made enough friends, earned enough education certificates and been through a few jobs to realise that if I don't pursue for more (in this case, a tertiary degree), I'll never make it. To make it worst, my asian face is a dead end.

No doubt there is some minor discrimination going on in Australia, but I've also seen our fellow asians, being employed to work at multinational MNC companies and being paid equal to their caucasians colleagues. That is what I call equal employment opportunity. Yet, if and when I go back to Singapore, I'm afraid that I'll only be paid a meagre salary that I could barely survive on, let alone buy a condo or nice car.

March 17, 2005 9:16 AM  
Blogger ldsdtsunami said...

Based on my personal experience, never get a job that need to tie you under a contract (i.e if you want to resign within contract period, you gotta pay back the remaining months left).

Never quit without getting a new job ( will suffer disillusion, inertia, depression... I got a male friend doing HR job, he quit his job and couldn't find a suitable to his requirement(position, wages etc) until 10months later..and it drain his saving but he came out of it stronger luckily.

Pls let me know briefly what you are looking in term of job position..maybe I can try to lookout in my company (US MNC)


March 17, 2005 9:35 AM  
Anonymous mrs budak said...

>>Aljunied GRC MP Cynthia Phua said most companies prefer to hire locals and that it is the workers who are fussy.

Fussy? Let me tell you what is fussy. This happened to my mother, who has certificates in food handling, cleaning, experience in chambermaiding, and is almost 60 years old.

Under this MOM scheme called "People for Job Traineeship Programme" (PJTP), companies get subsidies to employ older Singaporean workers to help these workers transit to a different job. My mother obtained a job as a chambermaid with a hotel located at Little India.

Throughout her short employment there, she was harangued by the staff there for being slow, and told repeatedly that she was employed only because government paid part of her salary. Her supervisor told her in no uncertain terms that he would rather employ cheap, young and pretty peidu-mama than someone older and slow like her.

(Incidentally, my mother was very slow in her work because she was busy cleaning up after these peidu-mama, who thought it was okay as long as the rooms looked clean. Only number of rooms cleaned mattered, not how clean the rooms were.)

After enduring months of mental abuse, the government subsidy ended, and my mom was told unceremoniously that she had to leave because her performance was not up to standard. But interestingly, despite her purported poor performance, she was also offered a contract, a part-time contract, with much reduced staff benefits, together with a substantially lower salary.

She finally resigned after a few months. I wrote a scathing complaint to MOM, which promised to look into this matter. To-date (since my complaint which was abt 2 years ago), I have not received any report on whether the said hotel has been censured.

She's now working as a cleaner, with no formal employment contract, no fixed salary (changed at the whim of the cleaning contractor), and no leave. She is staying at the job because she likes it, but it means she can't go for things like travelling, and if she falls sick, her pay will be cut.

Singaporeans go through such indignities and the government dares to say that we are fussy?

She is somewhat lucky... her salary is higher than what the cleaners at my company gets - $600 per month. Do NOT believe that every cleaner getspaid the same $1,500 per month the "model cleaners" featured in ST get. At $600, you're literally living hand-to-mouth. Is it really surprising that Singaporeans really don't want to take up such jobs?

Back to my mom, my inspiration. Despite her age, she is now taking up BEST English at the ITE. She was also raring to migrate out of Singapore - anywhere: Australia, Vietnam, the USA, as long as it's OUT. At her age, her chances are not good but I hope our chances will be better.

March 17, 2005 9:56 AM  
Anonymous bohemianlisa said...

Mrs Budak, it is disheartening to know that your mom, and no doubt many others, who had been contributing to the society for the rest of their life had to be treated in such a unceremonious and unappreciative manner.

March 17, 2005 3:22 PM  
Blogger TriplePeriod said...

Thats what happen when we are trapped in this vicious cycle. Gahmen doesn't step in to fight for its skilled works so that MNCs are tempted to come in and bring in revenue. But the irony, that i realise lately, is that its some of the MNCs themselves that are willing to "pay" for its talents. Most, if not all SMEs, really exploit the low wages. And the PRCs, theres nothing we can do, they are willing to jump at every single low-wage offer here and work their butts off and thats because they are getting more than what they can back home and being in foreign land, survivlal tops priority. We cannot blame them. Just blame the gahmen. As for that bugger who post that shite in Sammy boy forum. Wait for my 2 takes on it, when I am more free. Hehe.

March 18, 2005 10:13 AM  
Anonymous Kelvin Tan said...

Well, as one with "some" knowledge of economics hehe, just to let you know that the term "intertemporal sub of labor" is to explain business cycles.

Explaining business cycles is not exactly the same thing as explaining unemployment.

If you truly want to explain unemployment, the best theory to use is Search theory. It allows someone to accept or reject job offers, which is exactly what you are doing now.

March 19, 2005 1:22 PM  
Blogger sari said...

Hello dude, hows it going for you? Isnt it damn HOT in perth? anyhow, Ive shifted to xanga :P Pls visit me when yr free alright~

March 20, 2005 1:38 PM  
Blogger sari said...

Whoa! I hate Sammyboys! They got me into so much shit before! Anyhow, dun need to zap the previous comment. I dun wanna care too much bout such issues online. Heehee~ I understand that longing for a special loved one. I cant wait for Hans to join me manz~ haikz, me counting down everyday. heehee I think Perth is quite a good place to live in.. but Singapore is still better~ heehee.. Im at east vic park. No room for rent yet.. but Im moving out next sem.

March 21, 2005 1:22 AM  
Blogger elin said...

When I got my first job in Melbourne as a research assistant/ physiotherapist, I was only offered a 3 day contract for 3 years. I made almost as much working the 3 days as I was working 5.5 days, rostered sunday shift in a govt hospital as a fulltime physiotherapist. I worked 9-5 for the 3 days, not pressured to put in extra hours (and workplace is respectful of 9-5 and weekends) - although I did sometimes to finish work, comparing to 8-6 in Sg often with OT. So yes I can understand the Woolies analogy. Mind you, money aside, there are differences in mental stimulation, job satisfaction etc depending on choice of work. Take heart, good luck with your job hunting and pls dont feel threatened by PRC displacement. As they say, dong jia bu da da xi jia (I think !!! Clutching to the remaining straws of my Madarin skills).

March 23, 2005 9:51 AM  

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