3 reasons why people in Singapore are known for their strong work ethics

Did you know that Singapore has the second highest-skilled workforce globally?

Organizations are keen to set up their businesses in the country and one of the main reasons for this is to gain access to a pool of high-quality talent.

With a reputable education system and supportive programs in place for lifelong, continuous upskilling, Singapore ensures that it has a well-equipped workforce.

Moreover, Singaporeans are also dedicated to excellence both at work and at school. And this expectation to deliver is passed down through generations. 

While the last thing I want to do is to overgeneralize the culture, experiences, and values of an entire population, there are common factors that contribute to this perspective. 

So, why are Singaporeans known for their strong work ethics? Here are a few reasons why.

1) Highly competitive education system

It’s no secret that the education system in Singapore is a very competitive one. The government has even made changes to key national examinations in the spirit of reducing the stress and workload of educators, students, and parents.

At each phase of their education namely, Primary School, Secondary School, Tertiary Education, and University, students have to sit through tough national exams to determine which school they can enter. 

And entry to the better-ranked/top-ranked schools requires better test scores in order for students to secure a place within those schools – which would also be highly coveted by others.

While some may feel that their education in school is sufficient to prepare them for the national exams, most sign up for tuition classes on the weekends or after school to supplement what they have learned in the classroom.

There’s a reason why the tuition industry in Singapore has accelerated over the years

Now with the rising demand for IT-related skills such as robotics and coding, parents can enroll children – starting from the age of 4 – into these courses, to expose them to the world of computing and even, Artificial Intelligence.

Not only are academics important, but extra-curricular activities are also equally important. These are mostly after-school activities, where students sign up to be part of a sports team or interest club held by their school, or by an external party. 

Those who excel in their teams or clubs and participate in both national and international competitions would then have a shiny record they can add to their list of certifications. 

The few who manage to secure leadership roles in these groups have an edge over their peers as well since it’s all about learning how to differentiate yourself from the rest. 

As such, the concept of achievement and doing better in general, are ingrained in most childhoods of the people in Singapore. There’s always something to strive for, be it the next exam, the next competition, or the next project. 

While most students are caught up in this race, the pressure and stress also extend to their parents. They’ll ensure that their kids have the resources to excel because the world out there is only going to get more and more competitive.

2) Highly competitive workforce 

While the competition at school is highly localized (apart from perhaps university or international schools), the playing field when Singaporeans enter the workforce will expand to the entire world. 

Companies are not only on the lookout for talent within the country, but talent from everywhere else as well. With the goal of attracting ‘top talent’ from overseas, the Singapore government has been offering visas to individuals who meet certain criteria, especially from the technology and science industries.

Meanwhile, the competition in the country only intensifies further.

As access to higher education eases, the number of degree holders continues to climb. With nearly half the population armed with a university degree, there’s again the pressure to do more to get a job – especially in this economy.

So how does one get companies to notice you amongst the crowd? Furthering your studies is one option, but now there are many opportunities out there for someone to increase their hireability. 

Amassing the right certificates, picking up new skills and advancing current ones are just some of the options.

Now when you do get the job – the hustle doesn’t stop there.

There’s a desire to work hard, impress management, and hopefully, climb the career ladder.

As such, the workforce collectively produces good, high-quality work. It’s no surprise therefore that Singaporeans are known for their work ethic. And they have the results to prove this.

Unfortunately, this mindset of non-stop hustling normalizes work practices that are more harmful than good. 

For example, the overtime culture in Singapore is a big one, as one of corporate’s unspoken rules is that if you put in the work (aka going beyond the hours on the contract) you’ll likely get the attention of management and that promotion.

It’s also common practice for those who go away on holiday, to still check their emails and respond to work tasks. 

This stems from a combination of not wanting to have to deal with an overload of work when they return and a nagging feeling that they should be productive still, while on holiday.

Meanwhile, their colleagues based overseas take their breaks a bit more seriously. Time away from work is devoted to everything else outside work and they’re hardly contactable. 

3) Ingrained in culture

The third reason is that these values of doing well and doing better are ingrained into the Singapore culture.

While their strong work ethic is derived largely from the pressure to excel, there is also a sense of pride and accomplishment after a job well done. People strive to do well because they want to.

And their sense of responsibility and ownership in what they do is reflected in the results of their hard work. 

Seeing a project through from conceptualization to execution and overcoming the hurdles in between can be fulfilling in itself. 

This habit is similarly passed on through generations, from the people who shaped the nation into what it is today, to those who are laying the next steps for the future. 

Elizabeth Koh

Elizabeth Koh

A freelance writer sharing her thoughts on this corner of the Internet hoping they inspire. Constantly seeking opportunities for creative expression and happiness in the little things.

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