Future of work: S'poreans not prepared financially, says report

Singaporeans are aware that the nature of work is changing rapidly and are upskilling to be ready – but they are not prepared financially, a report from digital payment firm PayPal noted yesterday.

It found that 89 per cent of people polled believe that automation is good for the Singaporean economy while 77 per cent felt that their jobs would be highly impacted by new or changing technology in the next five years – higher than the global average of 70 per cent.

Nearly 80 per cent of Singaporeans whose jobs are at high risk of automation are aware of this fact, while the global average is only 68 per cent. The report was based on a survey of 1,000 Singaporeans of working age last year.

Mr Steven Chan, senior director and regional head of government relations for Asia-Pacific at PayPal, said: “Singapore’s openness to technology adoption and massive investments in digitalisation have made it more forward-looking than many other countries.

“Also, Singapore is confronting a rapidly ageing society that is being pushed to upskill at a much quicker rate to adapt to the workforce changes.”

Around 80 per cent of all Singaporeans have taken measures to upgrade their skills or learn new ones to prepare for these changes, but they are also not prepared for the financial repercussions of new technologies, such as changing existing income streams.

Mr Chan said: “One of the key takeaways from our study is that the ‘traditional’ full-time job with a steady or rather fixed income flow is going to be less common moving forward.

“The rise of newer or innovative technologies has brought about a change in the nature of work, which has resulted in workers having far more variability in their income-earning lives.”

For example, the rapid growth of the platform or gig economy has also led to a corresponding increase in the number of workers dependent on variable income streams.

“Platform workers face a unique challenge since the absence of financial tools suited to their needs could hinder their ability to build up long-term savings and retirement plans,” Mr Chan added.

The report noted that workers in jobs that are at high risk of automation exhibited more signs of financial distress, while younger Singaporeans also voiced their concerns regarding their long-term financial health and ability to retire in comfort.

89% 

Percentage of people polled who believe that automation is good for the Singaporean economy.

77% 

Percentage that felt that their jobs would be highly impacted by new or changing technology in the next five years – higher than the global average of 70 per cent.

Mr Chan said: “For instance, if we take automation, low-skilled and typically low-wage jobs are most likely to be affected in the near to medium term. Even a number of service sectors, such as postal, land transport and food services, are also found to be highly automatable.

“To minimise the impact, workers can build up their financial resilience by inculcating a habit of prudent saving and investing.

“Long-term savings behaviour will help ensure that they have the ability to weather income shocks,” he added.

The report noted that financial literacy is important so that people can choose the right products to meet their needs.

Mr Chan said: “We encourage financial institutions to work with a diverse range of stakeholders to foster a more holistic understanding of their customers.

“For instance, by including platform workers at the product design stage, a financial institution would be able to innovate products and services that are better suited to variable or volatile incomes.

“Financial institutions should strengthen their partnership with the Government to ensure the digitalisation of banking and payments systems is accompanied by education and outreach to enhance awareness and understanding.”

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