How did the word contract come to have a negative concept in Singapore? In the West, the contract employment market is more mature and for many has become the preferred way to work. Contracting offers a freedom of mobility that permanent employment just cannot offer, not to mention a way to avoid the office politics that can make work life tedious.
Unfortunately, contract employment remains largely misunderstood in Singapore, making people approach it more hesitantly. While Singapore may not be as mature in its use of contract workers as the West, many of the same benefits exist. Peoples hesitancy to work on contract in Singapore is simply caused by misunderstandings, or myths, about what contract employment actually is.
Lets first look back to the origins of contracting in Singapore before discussing the future for contract employment.
The growth of flexible employment in the form of contracting marked a break from the traditional job-for-life corporate mentality. The widespread use of contract workers started around 10 years ago, a time when the lifetime employment system was at its peak.
The issues that some contract workers continue to face today are rooted in the dynamics present when this form of employment first emerged. That dynamic was the need for companies to hire contractors for seasonal work, special projects or as a supplement to overall headcount in specific areas of need.
Straight from University
At that time, it was the social norm for people to join a company as a permanent employee straight out of university. If someone did not follow this traditional route, choosing instead to further their studies or pursue a creative passion, they often returned to the job market with much fewer options. During that time, the number of people pursuing alternative paths was small enough that often they had little choice but to accept unattractive salaries and unstable contracts. Consequently, contractors were seen as an easy way for corporations to get the extra labour they needed inexpensively. Although those days have gone, the negative perceptions from that time persist till today.
Singapore is currently undergoing a paradigm shift. There are significantly more job seekers on the market that have not followed the traditional employment path from 10 to 20 years ago. Typically, they are people looking to enter the market after pursuing a dream or outside interest after graduation, as well as those looking to steer their career in a new direction. Their numbers have now grown to such an extent that the balance of power is shifting in favour of the contract employee. That means that these job seekers can begin to demand more pay, more stability, more responsibility and a future career path.
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