Youth turning their backs on "Singapore Dream"

Sun Feb 17, 2013 9:40pm EST
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By Eveline Danubrata

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Ong Hui Juan spent nearly four years working in a British bank in Singapore, but decided to leave last year to pursue her passion of working with youth - an unusual and surprising decision in the achievement-oriented city state.

But Ong, 25, is just one of a growing number of young Singaporeans who are turning their backs on the material joys of the long-cherished "Singapore Dream," summed up as the "Five C's" - cash, car, credit card, condominium and country club membership - to do what they enjoy, even at much lower pay.

"I wanted to get out of a nine-to-five job. It was waiting for bonus after bonus, promotion after promotion. That didn't really appeal to me," said Ong, who studied banking and finance at university, but had worked with young people on the side.

"I don't need to be very rich as long as I have enough to get by for myself and my family, and I continue to have the flexible time I have now."

Young people may want to slow down, but the government does not. Singapore has long counted on its people as its biggest resource, the one that helped drive its transformation from a sea port with few natural resources into a key financial center after independence in 1965.

The government has also placed a strong emphasis on practical skills such as science and mathematics in schools, with Singapore students usually excelling in international tests.

It is just one part of what has made Singapore one of the world's richest countries, with gross domestic product per capita of S$63,050 ($50,123) in 2011, 48 times the level in 1960, according to government statistics.

Not one to rest on its laurels, though, the Singapore government recently released a nearly 80-page "white paper" calling for higher productivity in its workforce and projecting population growth by as much as 30 percent by 2030.   Continued...

Painter MaryAnn Loo works next to her art pieces in her home during an interview in Singapore February 4, 2013. Some young Singaporeans feel a sense of disconnect from the traditional paths that are laid out ahead of them as part of this striving - get into a top school, land a high-paying job and hope that their children can build on their achievements. Picture taken February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su