Introduction

Following the lawyer’s letter to remove my original post ” ***** and Fundraising for Charities” in October 2011, I am re-posting the content with general information to avoid the accusation of “defamation”and “confidentiality” issues as I believe that such information is scarce on the Internet.

(Disclaimer: Please note that the original post was published in 2010, and I had not been keeping abreast with development of charity fundraising. The information is still relevant as I still see people asking for peoples to make monthly donations to the charities organisation in Singapore; but I am not sure whether transparency of such practices had been improved.)

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I was reading the book written by R. William Holland, ‘Are There Any Good Jobs Left? Career Management in the Age of the Age of Disposable Worker’ and it struck me on the accuracy and poignancy of his observations.

As we pore through the news, we will notice that job creation is one of the foremost priorities for many governments around the world. With high sustained unemployment rates, people will eventually lose faith in the government and thus lead to political and social upheaval – as seen in Europe.

This got me thinking: What is in a job? Why are jobs so important?

According to BusinessDictionary.com, a job is defined as employees performing and accomplishing quantifiable duties, responsibilities and tasks in exchange for a salary. It added that beyond this perspective, jobs are especially important for us as we identify ourselves through our occupations, and our unique contributions to the organisation and society (BusinessDictionary.com, N.D.).

Below are some of the memorable quotes from the Holland’s Book.

One feature of a good job relates to the continuity of work and its associated income. It allows us to do things such as take on long-term debt. How much debt as well as the length of the debt obligations is often a function of monthly cash flow. Interruptions to a person’s income can easily interrupt access to the Dream (Holland, 2006, p.43).

We believe education is a ticket for admission to a good job – one with security of employment, health care benefits, career development, and a pension programme for retirement (Holland, 2006, p.4). Access to good jobs is a key motivator behind educating ourselves and our children. We structure our debts and dreams through our jobs (Holland, 2006, p.45).

The price of the admission ticket to good jobs has steadily risen while what we are getting for a return is less certain than before (Holland, 2006, p.4) How we prepare ourselves as a society and as individuals to deal with these changes, will have a dramatic impact on the quality of our lives.

The availability of job will ebb and flow depending on forces in the market place, including technology and concerns about efficiency (Holland, 2006, p.12). When companies are free to move jobs to their most rational economic locations, those who held those jobs become part of the labour pool in need of redeployment (Holland, 2006, p.12).

For the economist, workforce redeployment is looked upon as an engine for economic development as workers migrate to other jobs and companies reinvest to get better returns on capital (Holland, 2006, p.12). For individual workers, redeployment can be a source of economic demise because their jobs move elsewhere or disappear altogether (Holland, 2006, p.12).

There is no benign mechanism that redeploys workers on an as-needed basis. Indeed, people are left to fend for themselves, and there is no assurance they will share in any of the economic benefits workforce redeployment generates for society as a whole (Holland, 2006, p.12). In this sense, workers become disposable (Holland, 2006, p.12).

There was a time when our careers or occupational choices were prescribed by what our fathers did. Sons of farmers became farmers and their daughters became farmers’ wives. Later, greater access to education gave men, and then women, access to jobs unavailable to their fathers a generation later. Still later it became common for people to have several jobs during the course of a career and more than one career in the course of a lifetime. But it is a freedom bringing an unprecedented set of anxieties and insecurities. In this context, personal freedom and security can be at odds with one another (Holland, 2006, p.12).

While it has never been quite this cut-and-dried, it does seem fair to say that whatever post- World War II job security existed has given way to a more complicated reality (Holland, 2006, p.12). The expectation today is that we will be free (forced) to change both jobs and careers (Holland, 2006, p.12). Consequently, we are facing levels of complexity unknown just a few generations ago (Holland, 2006, p.12).  At the same time, what we do for a living (and whom we do it for) continues to play an important role in our self esteem. Our occupational choices feed our egos and affect how others view us (Holland, 2006, p.12).

But if having a job of which we are proud is important, losing that job can be devastating. Being let go/ fired is often viewed as a threat to our sense of personal worth and value, as it tends to invalidate everything we know and believe about ourselves. “I was laid off,” the reasoning goes, “so what I thought about myself is not true. My personal effectiveness with people – the value I bring to my organization and my peers and the esteem with which I am held in the community – must be less than I thought or they would have laid off somebody else.” (Hollang, 2006, p.13)

These insecurities and anxieties are the other side of workforce redeployment and why being let go feels a lot more personal than it actually is. And, as it turns out, finding the right replacement job is trickier today than ever before, adding complexity to the lives of so many people. (Holland, 2006, p.13)

However, with a increased pool of educated workforce worldwide, more companies have the bargaining power to decide who to hire in order to maximise profits. The decision to hire or fire or retrench on the basis of the bottom line, had transformed the mutual relationship between employers and employees transactional. From the business perspective, a huge pool of people are objectified and thus viewed as a factor of production and thus an aspect of variable costs to be controlled in response to the market conditions. Below are exerpts from Holland’s book.

A flexible workforce is one that can be redeployed to other high-end jobs created as a result of the global economy (Holland, 2006, p.48). For now, the number of jobs going offshore are more than offset by the numbers of jobs being created as companies put their capital to different and more profitable uses. The jobs that go away come back in the form of jobs requiring higher levels of skill, and with the creation of greater value than those that left (Holland, 2006, p.48).

At all times, companies will be what they have always been, self interested economic entities determined to survive. Survival will require them to provide goods and services in some combination of quality and cost better than their competition. That is the context in which jobs exists today. How well of us are treated will be, as it always has been, contingent on the perceived value we create. Immediately following World War II, a college degree was the passport to the perception of being able to create value and land a good job. Perhaps for the first time in modern history, value creation has to be more real than apparent. Where one went to school will be less important than what that employee brings to the table. We are entering an age in which we can no longer afford our prejudices (Holland, 2006, p.79).

The difference between the low income worker and the middle class manager lies in their career opportunities and the means they earn a living. Beyond that, both are groups of people likely to feel financial hardship should their jobs cease. Only the Rich, with passive income, can afford to disregard the pressures of the labour market faced by majority of the population.

References

Job (N.D). BusinessDictionary.com. [Online]. Availale on: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/job.html. [Accessed 1 September 2012].

Holland, R.W., (2006). Are There Any Good Jobs Left? Career Management in the Age of the Age of Disposable Worker. Praeger Publishers: USA

AFP. (2012). Young South Koreans face jobless woes with ‘graduate glut’. The Straits Time. 27 August 2012. https://www.google.com/url?q=http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/asia/story/young-south-koreans-face-jobless-woes-graduate-glut-20120827&sa=U&ei=nd9BUJPeM8qNmQWk_4DoCQ&ved=0CAUQFjAA&client=internal-uds-cse&usg=AFQjCNE_QbB5jQ1U8R94Ng4alwmO-Dholg

Devie, S. (2012). Economy can support more graduates: Government. The Straits Time. 29 August 2012. [Online] Available on http://www.straitstimes.com/breaking-news/singapore/story/economy-can-support-more-graduates-government-20120829 [Accessed 1 September 2012]

A Start

Posted: 20 August 2012 in My Muse
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Work is consuming most parts of my awakening life, since I started work as a civil servant a year ago. The luxury of having time for myself become scarce – and the hobbies I used to enjoy (drawing and blogging) became less important and thus infrequent.

One year on, with a bit of work experience, it becomes more manageable to squeeze in more time to do what I want. But to maintain a strict discipline to engage myself in my hobbies on a regular interval is still a tall order – after all it is easier to slip into my comfort zone and indulge in passive leisures like watching online videos, tv and etc to whittle time away.

This entry is a start after an almost year long hiatus from blogging

I was served a lawyers letter and had to remove one of my blog post for the following civil suit – 1) unauthorised use of CONFIDENTIAL information and 2) Publication which is DEFAMATORY  in nature.

I had taken down my blog post. The content had been about the private fundraising for charities in Singapore – and street fundraisers seeking donations through the public owning creding cards with the “Direct Debit Donor Programme (DDDP)”

Confidential? I am not sure if I had breached it by raising the issue on my blog. I wrote it as I thought there was a void in relevant subject  matter on the internet, and there is immense public interest in it – people are concerned where their donations goes; how charities outsource their fundraising function, and how these company recruit people to solicit donations in the street.

Defamation? It is the communication/ publication of a false claim that caused the person/ organisation defamed to be cast in a negative light (Wikipedia,  2011). I was in disbelief – I tried to write as factually and neutral as possible, referencing to other sources of information. I know that online, my particular post had attracted a wide number of readers, but  I doubt I had been able to exert influence others to react negatively to the organisations mentioned in the blog. I admit that the comments left by anonymous readers on my post can be caustic and negative, and thus defamatory. By neglecting to remove the comments, I had made myself liable.

It is a shame that I am prohibited to blog about the subject matter. :-( I did not bother to fight back, or rebel against the unfair lawyers’ letter against myself as I am preoccupied with my work and do not want to jeopardise my career.

Nonetheless, I am deeply interested in how charities bodies runs, and its sensitive relationship to its various stakeholders – the donors, the volunteers, management, the public and the beneficiaries.

 

LOD to Tan Ying Wei dated 13 October 2011

 

TanYingWei_LOD from Lawyer

References

Wikipedia (2011). Defamation. [Online}. Available on: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defamation (Viewed on 6 November 2011)

I had been my current organisation for the 2 month, and was sent for induction from 15the to 23th September 2011. Prior to the induction, I dreaded it and had irrational fears . I had rather low expectations, especially since I do not know anyone. Going for “Outdoor Adventure” is not my idea of fun.

The first part of the induction was “team building” at Outward Bound School (OBS), on Pulau Ubin island.

There was 45 inductees in this cohort. Initially, I was skeptical how we can break the ice and form lasting camaraderie. Besides, I am not particularly extrovert nor enjoy going around networking to advance my personal interest.

We were divided in 3 groups, and I belonged to the Sheares Team, of 14 participants. Our OBS instructor in charge, Mr Steven, was a great facilitator as he helped to break the ice between us with simple and effective games.

A summary of the 2 days 1 night OBS camp’s event – Planks Reassembling Game, Group Crossing on Planks & Bricks, Obstacle Climbing, Group Discussion, Night Walk, Exercise, Kayaking, Relay Race, and ending with a reflection session. This is probably a standard fare for every induction program, but it made a lasting impression on the inductees who came and experienced it for the first time. Away from the bustle and the stress of our work, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves as we focused on learning more about our new friends and camp mates.

The induction at OBS was followed by a five day camp at the National Community Leadership Institute (NACLI). There were four days of theoretical learning about the different functions, departments and divisions within the organisation; inculcating us with the values, mission and culture of the organisation. Certain “corporate” buzzwords were emphasized repeatedly.

On the last day at NACLI, we were tasked to present proposals to the senior management and have a dialogue and lunch with them to clarify any doubts and misunderstandings.

In general, I am agreeable to the robustness of this induction program as it created a strong network among other new colleagues who came from different spectrum and divisions withing the organisation itself, which we would otherwise have no affinity to meet. The company has 2,500 staff, and most of them to me, are still faceless strangers.

The induction was over, and life/ work goes on as usual. At least for now, I know about 45 “comrades” working together, and who my “bosses” are. It is harder to for the inductees of the same cohort to meet up regularly due to work commitments, and it will take sheer will for us to sustain the friendship. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is a process…”

As I look back, year 2011 is an historic year, for myself – I cast my votes for the first time, and twice too (once during the May 7 General Election, and the second for the August 27 Presidential Election). With the People Action Party (PAP) having won a strong mandate to govern the country since 1959, they are often seen as de facto rulers and Singapore’s political scene was once commented as being a ho-hum. This is probably the start of an exhilarating electoral fight in the political history of Singapore, as more qualified candidates came forward to contest.

The dust had settled and the adrenaline stirred by the election had passed – Singapore had already decided who are to lead them for the next coming years.

There is certainly heightened interest in politics among the youths, including myself, but according to Lee (2011) being politically aware, is about being perceptive of the political divides between different segments of society, knowledge of the direction of the economy, and understanding the opportunities available for different groups of people. Thus, although, I am not particularly political enlightened, I would nonetheless like give my own opinions on the subject matter.

Singaporeans no longer see politics as just knowing who-is-who in the Cabinet or the Member of Parliament (MP) of their constituency. Politics is a way of life and a chance to decide the best people to lead us on national issues. The policies implemented will have a lasting impact on our livelihood and our future beyond the time frame of the politicians’ tenure.

Assuming ceteris paribus (all things equal), that candidates who joined the opposition political parties are passionate and genuine at wanting to serve the country, san their political ambitions and personal interests, it is probable that the primary rise for the opposition support is a representation of the widespread discontent and a pent up frustration among the public with the ruling party.

But why are Singaporeans angry?

I believe that equity theory is relevant in this context. It proposed that satisfaction is correlated to the perception of fair/unfair distribution of resources, based on one’s inputs and contributions, within interpersonal relationships (Adams, 1965 cited in Wikipedia 2011). Anger arises when one feels threatened or ill treated in response to a perceived provocation or underpayment inequity (Adams, 1965, cited in Wikipedia, 2011).

Meritocracy, the cornerstone of our society and governance, gives equal opportunities to everyone and selects individuals based on their performance, regardless of background, racial groups or religions. However, in the process, it created strata within the society which segregates us based on our talents, abilities and performance.

In the past, university graduates formed merely 5-6% of the students’ cohort, and were naturally accepted as the cream of the crop. In comparison there is somewhat 50% of the population who are graduates nowadays. We vie and fight for the few coveted positions at the top of the social pyramid – creating a dichotomy between the so-called elites and the average. The matrix for evaluating performance had changed; resulting in a majority of the people who started feeling “injustice” for being deemed “average” despite putting the efforts to obtain their Bachelor/ Honour degrees. Without transparency to the selection process for the elites, it had somehow caused suspicion between these two categories of society, and became a harsh judgment of our competency and value as a person. People are outraged that they are passed over for their peers, and became disillusioned with the system.

It is thus no wonder that Lee Kuan Yew’s stance on the younger generation Singaporean’s attitude and the rationale to attract foreign talent often incur the wrath of Singaporeans, as demonstrated from the flurry of negative comments and defamation towards the ruling party on social media.

In my opinion, the following issues listed below are the plausible sources of Singaporean’s fury.

  1. Income disparity between the Rich and the Poor
  • Although the gini coefficient was 0.472 in 2010 (Singapore Statistics, 2010), the pursuit of material wealth and the relentless comparison to the wealthier counterparts breeds envy, jealousy and contempt among the middle class.
  • The Poor gets poorer as wages began to stagnant and unable to keep up with the high standard of livings and inflation.
  1. Locals v.s Foreigners
  • Singaporewas once an migrant city where our ancestors hailed from all parts of the world. However, as the locals settled down and assumed the identity of Singaporeans, the nagging fear of being replaced, or being deemed as being inferior to the imported talents remained. Singaporeans had to endure mandatory National Service, the disciplinarian regime of governance, the competitive education system, and are disgruntled and upset when they see foreigners gathered here to benefit the fruits of their labour without undergoing the same experience or hardship. They are also concerned about being crowded out of their own home, and being deprived of the social mobility in the competition for scarce resources.
  1. Jante Law
  • Singaporeans treasure their social stability, economic progress, harmony and had placed all their stakes in their country. Thus, we are a can be distrustful and even hostile towards the foreigners for these reasons — their differences stick out glaringly as they are unable to assimilate into our culture; or are deemed to be deemed superior and come usurp our position and compete for the desirable jobs and; they can come and go from the country as they please and make use of Singapore as a stepping stone.
  • Resentment
  • The feelings of many Singaporeans were bruised, when they feel that the Government does not acknowledge their fears, concerns and insecurity, in the single mindedness for the steady growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). There are people who nursed a grudge towards the Government, who may had implemented certain policies brusquely without sensitivity towards the minority whose interests are at stake for the purpose of satisfying the majority.

Singapore’s overly rapid pace of progress since its independence had indeed sowed the seeds of discord that threaten the national solidarity which the previous generation of leaders strived to build up. Racial lines may have blurred and a shallow national identity had been built up over the years, but tension stemmed from our measuring our social-economic status relative to our peers in terms of material wealth. As Goh Keng Swee wistfully acknowledged in his thesis in the 1960s, the erosion of our social fabric is the price paid for our economic miracle.

References

Wikipedia. (2011). Anger. [Online]. Available on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anger. (Viewed 10 September 2011).

Wikipeida (2011). Equity Theory. [Online]. Available on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equity_theory. (Viewed 10 September 2011).

Tan, J. (2011). Political divide must not become national divide. Yahoo News. [Online]. Available on http://sg.news.yahoo.com/blogs/singaporescene/political-divide-must-not-become-national-divide-235319981.html. (Viewed 10 September 2011).

Singapore Statistics. (2011). Literacy & Education. [Online]. Available on http://www.singstat.gov.sg/stats/keyind.html#litedu (viewed 10 September 2011).

Education Statistics Digest (2011). Ministry of Education. [Online]. Avail able on http://www.moe.gov.sg/education/education-statistics-digest/files/esd-2011.pdf (Viewed 10 September 2011).

Goh, K.S. (1972) The Economics of Modernization and other essays. Singapore: Asia Pacific Press, 294p. A collection of speeches from 1955-1971. [HC497.12 Goh]

I have been busy trying to ease into my new company. I am working as an intern graphic designer at an advertising firm.

Thus far, so good. My Creative Director and my colleagues have been taking care of me, although there is a gap between what was learnt in school and the actual practice at the company.

As there was not much tasks entrusted to me in the initial weeks, I got to observe the dynamics of human relations in the office, as well as the way of work life.

The length of time it takes to complete a advertisement depends on several factors: 1) the number of marketing collaterals, 2) the complexity of the design, and 3) the responsiveness of the clients approval.

As part of the creatives, one of the major source of frustrations is having to make umpteen changes to the already fine artwork. Adjustment to the pagination; amendments to the copy (text); modify the graphic elements; replace the images; and so on. “No, Reject, Redo”… are the much dreaded words. My colleagues shared with me, that although they are busy meeting the deadline for the whole day, they sometimes do not know what they are actual busy with – stuck with the same job and obliging the client’s requests for constant changes.

I had asked my Creative Director, whether the clients are paying their fickleness.

He replied that firstly, with the advent of the technology, many clients are overestimating the ease  for corrections, with little regards to the technical difficulties of the task, and thus take the ability of the creatives for granted. Hence, there are times when graphic designers are treated like “production workers” who churn out marketing materials.

Secondly, there are clients who either have difficulty articulating their aesthetic needs, or are clueless of what they want. The constant ping pong of the artwork –- from the creatives, to the account executives, to the clients, to the company’s upper echelons –- often result in  disruptions, bottlenecks and mis-communication, as the concept and intent of the designer are lost between the different layers of bureaucracy. I believe that this problem is a common occurrence, not just in this office, but in every organization.

He further added, although it is technically alright to demand payment from the client to compensate for the effort and time wasted with regards to regular changes, this practice is not common in Singapore. Clients have greater bargaining power over the advertising company or the creatives, due to the over-competitiveness of the industry. They will always be freelancers or graphic designers who are “spoil markets” –  people who are willing to take the tedious job at a lower pay.

I am definitely learning a lot in the company – from the technical know how in regards to the execution of artwork, to understanding the preparation of the artwork for the various advertising mediums available. Yet there is still a depth of knowledge which I had yet grasp. I felt fortunate that my Creative Director is patient mentor to me. :-)