Essential v non-essential jobs: How the survey was conducted

A survey by The Straits Times and consumer research firm Milieu Insight found that most people are willing to pay more for essential services, if the extra amount would go to the workers.

SINGAPORE - The survey company that conducted the poll commissioned by The Sunday Times, which sparked discussion about the value society places on artists, has given more details of the methodology used.

In a statement on Monday (June 15), Milieu Insight's chief operating officer Stephen Tracy said that while it was "heartening to see some productive debate taking place about the core focus - perceptions towards low-wage essential workers in Singapore - there has also been some critical response to the survey findings that dealt with Singaporean views towards essential versus non-essential jobs".

The Sunday Times commissioned the survey early this month as the coronavirus pandemic turned the spotlight on the role that essential workers play, and the discrepancy between their value to society and what they earn.

In Parliament, MPs had called for more to be done to boost these workers' wages in the long run.

In the survey, respondents were asked which jobs they deemed most essential, out of a randomised list of 20 jobs across the spectrum.

They were allowed to select as many as they wished, said Mr Tracy.

The definition of an essential worker was given to respondents as: Someone who is engaged in work deemed necessary to meet basic needs of human survival and well-being, such as food, health, safety and cleaning.

The respondents were then asked to select the remaining jobs they thought were "absolutely not essential".

Medical workers, cleaners and garbage collectors emerged as the jobs considered to be most essential.

 
 
 

They were also asked what they thought the Government and companies should do to improve these workers' welfare.

 

For both questions, artists emerged as the least essential, sparking outrage in some quarters.

The other questions included which of the listed jobs the respondents would be open to doing themselves, whether the Covid-19 pandemic had affected the way they view essential workers, and if they thought these workers should be paid more.

Mr Tracy said the context of the circuit breaker had "absolutely" affected the results.

"'Essential workers' has been a recurring narrative for many Singaporeans in the news over the last few months, and so respondents were answering in a post-Covid-19 context," he said.

This, he added, does not mean Singaporeans view professions such as artists or human resource professionals as not valuable or valued, or even essential in a different context such as happiness or stability.

"And these are important questions to be asking, perhaps in another study."