Give young S'poreans time to create value

In an environment characterised by pragmatism, the call for young Singaporeans "to have the hunger to create value, rather than simply access it" ("Why a safe job is risky business for S'pore"; last Friday) feels like an impossible situation.

Writer Devadas Krishnadas further argued that pervasive risk aversion deprives small businesses of talent and, as a consequence, limits the expansion of these enterprises and their ability to entrench themselves "in both local and international markets".

His proposals, however - shifting mindsets, right-sizing the demand for labour in the civil service, introducing greater competition for entrepreneurs and inuring individuals to failure - are far from ground-breaking and the more intrinsic shifts are easier said than done.

A more realistic outlook is needed.

Young, pragmatic Singaporeans may make decisions based on a risk-return trade-off, but these higher returns do not necessarily take the form of generous benefits or remuneration.

To compensate for the risk of working in a smaller company or within a disruptive industry, many wish to be nudged out of their comfort zones and to benefit from exposure, mentorship or growth.

In a country where the cost of living is high, the focus on monetary gains also stems from the need for financial security.

Many young Singaporeans are aware of the privileges their parents never had - to be able choose from a wider variety of jobs in an economy with low unemployment rates, and the opportunities to explore different career options - and, hence, are more deliberate in making decisions.

The desire to create value - and, by implication, the willingness to take some risks - takes time too.

Many from the older generations who are successful in business started off with careers in the public service on bonded scholarships or fast-paced openings in multinational corporations.

They, too, took some time to figure out their strengths and preferences and accumulated some capital before making leaps.

I make no apologies for my generation.

Mr Devadas reckons that more of us need to create value - not just access it - yet the latter appears to be a constructive platform for the former.

The fledging tech and start-up ecosystem in Singapore could also provide evidence to the contrary.

We tread ahead into an ambiguous future with the same insecurities and anxieties as our parents, so give us some time and space.

We will figure this out, eventually.

Kwan Jin Yao

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Give young S'poreans time to create value'. Print Edition | Subscribe