In light of the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the Emerging Stronger Conversations (ESC) platform was realised to enable Singaporeans to share their ideas and take action to emerge stronger from the crisis. The National Youth Council (NYC) conducted a series of engagements to allow young people to share their sentiments and recommendations on how Singapore can overcome the effects of Covid-19. Beyond conversations, NYC will provide opportunities for youths to take ground-up action, and contribute towards policy change.
Jobs and Future of Work (JFOW) is a topic under the ESC Youth Track. The discussions focused on the following topics:
(i) Jobs and Career Guidance – Youths are concerned about their employability and job security, as a result of disruptions caused by COVID-19.
(ii) Future of Work – COVID-19 has caused major shifts to the workplace, making it necessary for youths to envision and discuss what their future workplace would be like.
(iii) Appreciating low-income workers – The pandemic has also brought to light how essential workers continue to work hard, with many frontline workers putting their own health at risk. While there has been improved perceptions as a result of COVID-19, these jobs are still not well-respected, with many unwilling to work in such roles.
NYC commissioned a Milieu poll in August 2020 with 500 youths, aged 16 – 34 years, to understand youth sentiments towards Jobs and Future of Work. A series of OPPI polls were also launched to complement the sensing data.
Despite having a bleak outlook of the economy, youths feel that COVID-19 has made a positive impact on the nature of work in the areas of increased digitalisation and automation of work processes, and improved flexible work arrangements for working youths.
Youths remain resilient, with more than half expressing that they were prepared to adapt to changes in the future job market. Youths recognised the need to hone their digital and critical thinking skills in order to remain relevant and employable in the future job market. Results from the OPPI poll reveal similar sentiments with over 84% of youths agreeing that technology will shape the future economy, and with 96% acknowledging the importance of developing digital/software skills.
With the evolution of the future workplace, youths feel that digitalisation and flexible work arrangements will pose potential challenges. These include increased work expectations and stress and the need to have a broader skill set and knowledge beyond what is taught in the classroom. With the lines becoming increasingly blurred between work and personal space, youths expressed the need for greater support in the workplace to address work-life integration and mental well-being of employees.
In a separate Milieu survey, youths had expressed that better working conditions, higher wages and subsidies are top ways to support underappreciated workers. Youths also feel that more recognition and value can be given to those working in underappreciated roles. This sentiment is echoed in the OPPI poll, where 88% of youth agree that our society values the work of underappreciated workers only during times of crisis. 9 in 10 youth expressed that COVID-19 has caused them to have an increased appreciation for the services performed by such workers.
NYC x TWS x FASTJOBS ASK ME ANYTHING
NYC partnered The Woke Salaryman (TWS) and FastJobs to conduct a Ask Me Anything (AMA) session via TWS’ Instagram page early September 2020. The engagement hoped to address youths’ concerns about jobs and the present COVID-affected economy.
As a popular influencer channel in the jobs and career landscape that youths subscribe to, TWS provided useful insights that individuals could relate to in a light-hearted manner. The AMA session also featured Ms Lim Huishan, FastJobs Career Expert, and NYC Youth Leader. She shared her advice pertaining to job stability, avenues for career guidance and mentorships, digitalisation of future workplace, etc.
You can refer to the series of IG Stories here.
“WORK PLAY” FORUM THEATRE
A joint production by NYC and Fat Kids Are Harder to Kidnap, “Work Play” is an interactive live theatre play that brought into focus the different struggles and concerns that youths might face moving into the new normal.
Participants were engaged through the lighthearted session, which allowed them to select which skits they wanted to watch first based on their preference. There were a total of 15 skits, and each skit highlighted a concern that youths may have in the post-COVID-19 workplace. These include the gig economy, job search, adaptability/life-long learning, digitalisation/automation, gender roles in work and at home, inclusive workplaces, and work-life balance.
Participants were then grouped into breakout rooms to discuss their thoughts on jobs, economy and the future workplace. They expressed concern about their employability, and are looking out for internships experiences to learn skill sets beyond what is being taught in school to add on to their portfolios.
Working-from-home shifts the physical office into a virtual office that allows individuals 24-hour access. Participants shared that with the easy accessibility meant that some individuals may end up working longer hours than expected, and thus it is important to set boundaries to avoid getting burnt-out. Participants reflected the loss of human connection in services due to digitalisation, and how elderly struggle to engage with these services.
Despite the various disruptions that COVID-19 has caused to the economy, participants agreed that it has made us more innovative and resilient, adapting to the fast-changing economy.
EMERGING STRONGER CONVERSATIONS MULTI TRACK YOUTH DIALOGUE
NYC organised a Zoom dialogue with about 120 youths on Saturday, 26th September 2020.
The dialogue revolved around three themes:
(i) Jobs and Future of Work
(ii) Support for Vulnerable Groups, and
(iii) Environment and Sustainability.
The dialogue was hosted by Minister Edwin Tong. and Senior Minister of State Zaqy Mohamad helmed the discussion on Jobs and Future of Work.
In light of the economic disruptions caused by COVID-19, youths acknowledged that they need to constantly adapt to the demands of the rapidly evolving job market. To better prepare for the workplace, youths shared their desire to be exposed to various industries at a younger age; these include attending workshops, internships, or participating in conferences. Youths agreed that real-world exposure would allow them to appreciate and apply their knowledge. Youths also displayed resilience, with an individual sharing her experiences of how she bounced back from a retrenchment with the support of the Government and her networks.
Youths shared their desire for more inclusive workplaces, and for a better understanding of workplace cultures from a young age. Youths also expressed concern over challenges faced by lower-income workers and highlighted the need to raise awareness of existing support schemes such as the Progressive Wage Model (PWM) and the Workfare scheme.
Overall, youths felt that in this VUCA world, individuals need to constantly upgrade themselves and be on the lookout for opportunities.
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