Future of work? Fix how we view it today first

15 November, 2019

Photo: ‘A foreign worker reading a newspaper along the sidewalk’ from SRN’s SG Photobank

Hard at Work: Life in Singapore (NUS Press, 2019), edited by Associate Professor Gerard Sasges (NUS Department of Southeast Asian Studies) and Ms Ng Shi Wen, was recently featured in an editorial in The Straits Times by Mr Han Fook Kwang. Mr Han praised the book for contributing towards understanding work in Singapore today and providing an accurate glimpse of life in Singapore in raw and unfiltered Singlish.

Mr Han discussed a few themes running through the interviews with workers of diverse occupations that were compiled in Hard at Work. Firstly, many Singaporeans work difficult and long hours, and have very little time for anything else. Secondly, making ends meet is always a big concern for those who run their own businesses; a motorcycle mechanic with his own repair shop also talked about the difficulties of retiring comfortably in Singapore. Mr Han also found the interviews with foreign workers insightful in understanding their view of life in Singapore; that the interviewer was the “first Singaporean” that one Bangladeshi worker talked to was telling of how impersonal Singapore felt to these foreign workers.

To Mr Han, the book showed how the workers interviewed knew more than what is commonly thought and that they have more to offer than just their labour. Taking a greater interest in their livelihoods, as Hard at Work has done, may be the way to restore the perception of workers in Singapore as human beings rather than faceless and nameless economic entities, and bring back the humanness of everyday life.

Read the article here.