Azhar's blog

Intern's Blog: CPF Rates to Stay

Bosses, if you're looking to trim operating costs, forget about reducing your CPF contributions to employees.

There are other methods to employ to keep your company in the black, according to Minister Lim Boon Heng: "Bonuses can be cut. The MVC can also be cut if needed. Other measures include a shorter work-week with corresponding reductions in wages."

Perfectly fine measures, it seems, especially when we've all established that employees would rather lose digits from the paycheck than lose our jobs. And of course we should all be thankful for it.

"This is our advantage," he adds, knowing of no other countries with "such a range of options open to employers."

Intern's Blog: Labour's Latest

Bad news or good, we’ll give you the labour market blow-by-blow so you’ll be in the know.

Bad news: 70% spike in job losses between July and September this year. In all, 3,178 people were retrenched or were prematurely terminated from their jobs, according to the latest Manpower Ministry report.

Seven in 10 of retrenchments came from the manufacturing sector, which was still expanding as late as August this year.

Good news: Jobs are still on the table, especially as the government boosts its recruitment efforts to take up the slack left by the private sector.

- 800 jobs, mainly in the service industry, were on the table at North East CDC’s recent job fair. This sector is expected to hire well into the upcoming festive season.
- The Home Team is also seeking 1,000 new employees, mainly police officers and immigration specialists; look out for their recruitment event sometime this month.
- If you’re up to it, consider teaching – the Ministry of Education is looking to bump up its ranks with 1,000 fresh teachers and counsellors by 2010.

Being retrenched isn't a good thing but if you are, take heart in the fact that 65,399 other Singaporeans share your fate.

Singapore’s economy is expected to recover in 2010, assuming a moderate recovery in Europe and the US next year, according to UBS economists.

> Discuss career issues on the JobsCentral Forum!

Intern's Blog: Plugging into a Digital Future

Singapore recently announced the planned development of Mediapolis, taking a step towards becoming another hub for the world, .

The project to grow Singapore’s media infrastructure and turn the country into a Trusted Global Media Capital - as it’s officially known - is slated for completion in 2020 and will occupy a 19-hectare space near Buona Vista with an adjoining 12-hectare space earmarked for possible expansion.

Despite the negative economic climate, the Asian media industry seems resilient – a recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey puts growth at 9% annually. While recession would dampen the investing mood, “a competitive cost structure, a growing audience of young and affluent middle class, as well as greater connectivity to digital content,” would continue to lure media financiers here, according to MICA* head, Dr Lee Boon Yang.

With Mediapolis, Singapore will be well poised to take full advantage of this boom. Singaporeans, especially those with skills in digital media will be in high demand when the project eventually takes off. Spin off and support industries throughout the media industry value chain will naturally benefit as well.

The media sector here already employs about 54,000 people, contributing 4.5% of Singapore’s GDP. With a dedicated hub and brand-name media firms in place, employment opportunities in this emerging sector can only abound.

*Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts

Intern's Blog: Miracle or Mirage?

Today’s big story is definitely Barack Obama being elected the 44th President of the United States. His most notable achievement thus far has been overcoming the prevalent but almost-subtle racial gap in the country. A bigger challenge looms close however – tackling the world’s biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 30’s.

Financial Armageddon didn’t ring a bell with most Singaporeans when the subprime mortgage crisis bubbled over late last year.

It finally hit home when financial goliaths like Lehman Brothers keeled over, rendering $501 million of related investment products here worthless.

On a macro scale, the manufacturing industry seems the hardest hit in Singapore. The sector hit a seven-year low with a slump predicted to last until early 2009, weighed down by weak demand here and overseas.

Home-grown firms like ST Engineering have also been hit. Bankrupt clients, slow business and a weak US dollar have shrunk the company’s profit growth and the firm is bracing for more bad news. On the flipside, Sembcorp Marine posted a profit jump of 73.2% for Q3 this year, defying cynics who predicted sunset for the industry with crude oil prices and credit sinking.

A fresh economic horizon beckons yet, with a new man at the helm of the world’s only superpower. “Change has come,” says Obama. Already, Asian shares have rallied with the announcement of his election victory. Time will tell if his promised transformation leads to miracle or mirage.

Intern's Blog: Women in Power Suits

According to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency, female executives in Australia are a rare and diminishing kind. Its recent survey found that out of every 10 executives there, only one is is a woman.

Furthermore, the number of companies there with no women executive managers now stands at 45.5%, a sharp rise of 6% from two years ago. In comparison, only 14.8% of US companies do not have a woman in a power suit, yet.

Underscoring the bias down-under: only four women, out of a nation of 21,468,700 people, are CEOs of their publicly-traded companies.

The Agency's director blames archaic and unjust work practices, calling progress towards equality "glacial". Surely, in modern, progressive and first-world Singapore, things are not so backwards for the estrogen brethren. Or is it?

Intern's Blog: Don't Worry, Be Happy

Immigration: to enter and usually become established; especially to come into a country of which one is not a native for permanent residence

Singaporeans, you needn’t worry nor feel threatened about the influx of foreigners settling on our shores. According to Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng, it’s only a “natural human response” which the government will assuage by ensuring that “our own people are always closest to our hearts.”

We need immigrants because we simply do not (cannot?) sufficiently reproduce ourselves to maintain our current standard of living.

Besides, this new wave of talent will make the Lion City a truly roaring and dynamic one – just like how every one of us (former) immigrants have built it into whatever it is now.

With natives forming only two-thirds of the population, the authorities will “continue to attract talented people to settle here.” Of course, Singaporeans and our interests are always the first to be considered, and “this is reflected in the way our policies are crafted,” said the Home Affairs Minister.

I feel content already.

Intern's Blog: Why Ah Kong lost his life-savings

Reading about the retiree couple who lost their $100,000 investment without knowing how, some may say that financial managers are money-grubbing, unscrupulous and self-interested scum of the earth.

"Of course the bank will not tell us to target retirees officially but you don't have to be a genius to know that retirees are usually heavy with cash," said one senior relationship manager from a foreign bank. I keep thinking that the quote's missing a "clueless" somewhere.

Their AIG cousins in the US don't fare much better. Funded by taxpayer bailouts, they go on frivolous spa retreats and English hunting trips to reward employees and customers respectively. Their best excuse: these had been planned months in advance. We all know of course that the global money meltdown was as unexpectedly sudden as ice melting in lava.

But really, who can fault them? Finance has always been where the money’s at, literally and otherwise. Practically anyone can be a financial executive. Just know your product and all you have to do then is your job: sell. Nevermind the risks; with all that money, banks never go bankrupt anyway.

Besides, the algorithms used to derive the products have all been rigorously thought out by computers. We rely on these infallible machines obviously, because these formulas are too complicated for the average any human to understand.

So the next time Ah Kong starts whining about "minibonds" or "high notes" destroying the thousands of dollars he broke his back to earn, tell him about what you've just read. Just don't blame it on the financial executives.

Intern's Blog: Paper Value

It seems that employment in Singapore is taking a new tack. If you haven't seen them, the Workforce Development Authority recently launched a slew of ads urging workers to pick up skills. Employers are also being urged to consider the skill baskets that can be offered by candidates instead of just paper qualifications during hiring exercises.

Realistically speaking however, how relevant is this push to our society?

If anything, the paper chase in Singapore is becoming even more intense with Singapore's tertiary education institutes literally mass-producing graduates streamlined for the economy's needs.

Personally, I feel it's a good move to recognise that a paper grade can only tell so much about anyone's actual working ability.

However, what really needs to change is the mindset of our society as a whole. We are so driven and focused in our pursuit of success (as defined by the powers that be) that we become soul-less.

At the end of the day though, what does that diploma or degree really mean to you?

Intern's Blog: Charity Case

In the Manpower Ministry's report on second-quarter labour trends, social workers were found to have suffered a 14.7% shrink in their real wages, far above the national average of 4%. On average, these people receive $3,481 a month, before tax deductions and after adjusting for inflation.

What really needs discussion though is the attitude of netizens at this drastic turn of the economy on the people who can be said to rely on their passion for human potential to motivate them in their work.

"If you want to be noble, do not talk $ and cents," said one Boobsy.XiaoWei.

Asiaslider chimed in, "If they do it for nobel (sic) reason then why discuss pay... if not happy with money get another job.. don't waste space and ink.."

True, people doing charity work in society shouldn't expect to get rich along the way. However, you can't eat passion, pride or any other value for that matter.

Something else needs to compensate social workers for the work they do that not everyone will. Something to at least bring home the bacon and put bread on the table. Something like money perhaps?

Intern's Blog: Two Things

Another TGIF moment here. To keep you occupied because we don't work over the weekend (and neither should you), here are a couple of things you can do.

1. Tell your friends about our referral campaign. You know, the one where you stand a chance to win a Sony PSP Slim. Time's running out because a winner must be had when September ends (singalong, sounds like a song).

2. Post on the forum. The number of active members has grown, obvious by the number of new nicknames posting. We have people asking if you're someone who bao ka liaos for the boss. Also popular now is grunting about your job, or lack thereof.

If you've one of those funky PDA phones, you can even do these while waiting in line to cancel your policies at AIA. At least it will help to avoid the twitches. Or distract you from seeing Mark O'Dell, AIA Singapore's General Manager, leave after tendering his resignation today. Hrmz.