Forum: Time to value occupations beyond social standing

Dr Cheng Ching Siang recommends "work attachment programmes at construction sites" or "rubbish collection rounds a day a week" to instil respect in young people for manual labour (Singaporeans need to develop respect for blue-collar work, May 12).

Dr Cheng had to move to Australia to realise that overseas, manual work is respected and pays better, for reasons that include belligerent unions, a flatter job hierarchy and rigorous apprenticeships.

A friend who returned from Germany told me: "Their bus drivers are as literate as others and treated as equals." Here, we view bus drivers as less-educated people doing "unprofessional" jobs befitting only foreigners and desperate locals.

I remember how in 2005, when SBS Transit announced that it would call its drivers bus captains, a person argued against the move online, not wanting them to share the stature of a commissioned officer's rank.

I once took a bus from Yishun driven by a convivial ginger-haired American bus captain who was formerly an aerospace worker. Would publicising this have upgraded regard for him or his new profession?

We tend to respect occupations based on pay and prestige. Nothing dirty, dangerous or demeaning. A long time ago, I overheard a teacher on a zoo excursion proclaim to her students: "If you don't study hard, you will end up as a zookeeper." I would have liked to point out to her that zookeeping is a worthy profession and part of an academic discipline.

We ought to value occupations beyond social standing. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have re-evaluated jobs such as nursing, food delivery and safety policing.

No one should have to apologise for their profession. A gig economy should equalise respectability.

Anthony Lee Mui Yu

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