'Cost of living a concern' for young Singaporeans

A new poll done by Singapore Polytechnic students has found that young Singaporeans hope for affordable homes, a better society and better work-life balance. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MARK CHEONG 
A new poll done by Singapore Polytechnic students has found that young Singaporeans hope for affordable homes, a better society and better work-life balance. -- ST FILE PHOTO: MARK CHEONG 

What do young Singaporeans hope for their country in the next five years?

An affordable place to live in, a society that defines success beyond academic and material achievements, and jobs that offer a better work-life balance.

These were some of the findings of a new poll done by Singapore Polytechnic students, which aimed to find out about the aspirations of young Singaporeans.

Altogether, 825 people aged 15 to 35 took part in the survey, which was conducted face to face over three weeks last June. The respondents were representative of Singapore's youth population.

Some 107 second-year media and communication students from the polytechnic were involved in the survey.

About 68 per cent of those surveyed hoped for an affordable cost of living in Singapore.

Some 57 per cent wished for a society that would define success more broadly, beyond doing well in examinations and achieving material gains.

About 54 per cent wanted a more "fulfilling" pace of life, which includes shorter working hours and a slower pace of life.

Respondents were shown a list of statements and asked to rank their priorities. They were not required to elaborate on their reasons.

Ten young people The Straits Times spoke to agreed that the country's cost of living was their greatest concern.

Ms Jolene Huang, 26, a strategic planning executive in the airline industry, said: "We are not rich or poor; we just get by."

The yearning for better work- life balance mirrored the findings of other surveys. A majority of 4,000 Singaporeans polled by the Our Singapore Conversation last year said they want a slower pace of life - even at the expense of slower economic growth.

Said Ms Huang: "I would be willing to trade economic growth for a slower pace of life, but I will lose out if everyone around me is not willing to do the same."

The Singapore Polytechnic poll revealed that six in 10 have considered looking beyond Singapore to achieve their dreams. Their top reasons for this included the high cost of living here and generally a slower pace of life overseas.

For this group, they were not asked to specify if they wanted to leave the country for good or to work or study overseas for a period. They did not indicate which countries they wished to head to.

Ms Trudy Lim, 50, Singapore Polytechnic's deputy course manager of media and communication, said the results were indicative of a change in outlook among young people, compared with 10 to 15 years ago.

"In the past, you get a university degree, get a job and support your parents. Today's youth are different. Most grow up in families who can afford to travel, and universities and polytechnics also give them opportunities to go on exchange programmes as part of their studies."

Mr Sean Kong, 29, chief executive of Halogen Foundation, a youth leadership organisation, said: "In the past, things were more linear. It was just about being a doctor, lawyer or engineer.

"Now, students are more open to other things like the performing arts, or doing social good."

ateng@sph.com.sg


Key findings

  • Nearly all polled said their top three aspirations in life were financial stability, having strong family ties and work-life balance.
  • Most wanted Singapore to be an affordable place to live in, a society with a broader definition of success beyond academic and material achievements, and a more "fulfilling" pace of life.
  • The survey found two distinct groups: Six out of 10 considered leaving the country to achieve their dreams while the rest preferred to stay.
  • While the "global" group was more inclined to pursue interests unrelated to their studies or work, the "local" group listed getting married and starting a family as more important.
  • The "global" group spent more time on social media compared with the "local" group, who spent more time watching TV and reading newspapers.