Last of the millennials

19+ Worldview survey: Purpose over pay cheques

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From their wish for a more consultative style of government to their career aspirations and opinions on marriage, the reactions of these 19-year-olds to a survey done on people of their age could provide some insight into their generation.

Young people want jobs with meaning, and they will even put purpose over pay cheques.

A survey conducted by The Straits Times in partnership with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) found that the most important factor in choosing a job for them was how meaningful it was.

The study examined the views of more than a thousand 19-year-old Singaporeans.

Nearly 42 per cent said the job must hold some meaning for them. This was more than twice as popular as the next highest ranking factor of good salary prospects, which 17 per cent of the respondents agreed with.

They also said other considerations, such as work-life balance, how related the job is to one's field of study and the opportunity to progress in the career, would not affect their job choice.

However, fewer of the respondents from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) - 32 per cent - felt that a meaningful job was important, in contrast with 42 per cent for those from polytechnics and 45 per cent from junior colleges (JCs).

The survey also showed that ITE students had more practical considerations. More of them said factors such as salary and how related the job is to their discipline of study would influence their decision to take it up.

Those from JCs also had higher salary expectations than their polytechnic and ITE peers.

The desired starting pay for young people on the JC route was $3,905, compared with $3,312 and $3,247 for those from polytechnic and ITE.

Labour economist Randolph Tan, who led the ST-SUSS study, said: "Young people value their freedom and have greater confidence in their own abilities than the generations before them, and do not believe in serving merely as a cog in the system."

The SUSS associate professor noted that there is a difference in socio-economic status between students from ITE and JC, suggesting that this plays a role in shaping their career outlook.

Temasek Polytechnic student Charmaine Goh, who hopes to take up a job which can benefit others, said: "It goes back to what you want to do in your life and how your career fits in with that, and how it helps you achieve that purpose."

The third-year communications and media management student said there is a "clear shift" in thinking between her parents and her generation today.

"In the past, it was about finding a job that you could stay in for a long time, and work and life were two separate things," she said.

"Today, the lines are blurred. My friends and I would like jobs that we would personally enjoy, something that can benefit other people."

SUSS first-year marketing student Victoria Wong said that while pay is important, finding passion in a job is still the most essential.

"If you're doing something you don't enjoy, it will be draining, tedious and not good for your physical and mental health in the long run."

She added: "Young people today also want to work in an environment that is open, that will allow them to apply what they've learnt in school and challenge themselves to come up with innovative ideas.

"This sort of work process will eventually help you to grow as a person, instead of just taking instructions from others."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 12, 2019, with the headline 19+ Worldview survey: Purpose over pay cheques. Subscribe