A Straits Times job survey throws up some surprises, with six in 10 people saying their jobs are good and holding the view that a university degree is not needed to snag a good post.
They associate a good job with pay and benefits, work-life balance, good bosses and colleagues, and career advancement.
As for the future, the people polled are less certain about what it holds for the next generation of workers. There are as many pessimists as there are optimists among the 501 surveyed, with the majority citing competition from foreigners and the young's poor work attitude as the two biggest obstacles between future workers and a good job.
These were among the key findings of the survey on people's job perceptions as Singapore wrestles with a stressful pace of life while striving to keep ahead of global competition.
The Straits Times survey of citizens and permanent residents was done with Degree Census Consultancy from June 20 to July 2.
Yesterday, both Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and Education Minister Heng Swee Keat were cheered by the findings.
Mr Tan said he was heartened that six in 10 workers said their job is good or very good.
He was also not worried that pay and work-life balance outranked job security. This is more a reflection of the current full employment situation than a sign that Singapore workers were complacent, he said.
But he cautioned: "We've done well so far, but we should be mindful of stiff global competition."
Similarly, Mr Heng welcomed the finding that six in 10 say a university degree is not necessary to get a good job. He said: "I am encouraged that many Singaporeans recognise that getting a good job depends on many factors, and not just on paper qualifications."
Chief executives have told him that they look for qualities like integrity, creativity and the ability to communicate clearly, he said.
Like Mr Tan, Mr Heng also underlined the need for continuous learning, which is essential for maintaining a quality workforce.
As for the paper chase, the 20-somethings are the ones set to race for it, with more than half linking degrees to a good job.
Those who are older, better off and with more work experience tend to put less store by it.
The finding, said sociologist Paulin Straughan, reflects the pressure for paper qualifications younger Singaporeans face compared to the lower barriers of entry for workers in the past.
The survey also shows people respect self-made entrepreneurs, as well as those who work with their hands to serve others such as cleaners and waiters, over white-collar jobs.
Mr Heng, who has advocated different definitions of success, is glad.
"We need to highlight more the paths less trodden, to stimulate the imagination of our young and encourage them to venture out," he said.
The survey, however, shows four in 10 of those without a degree plan to get one in the future.
Regional logistics manager Firdaus Abdul Samad, 37, studied part-time for a degree "to be on a par with my team who are mostly graduates". He got a business degree from UniSIM last year.
"In this world, you need to be competitive, you can't be contented, you have to upgrade yourself," said the father of three.