So everyone is always complaining about how Singaporeans aren’t entrepreneurial enough, that we’re such sticks in the mud, but is that really true? As far as I know, most of my friends would really love to send their bosses packing.
The problem is that we’re also a risk averse bunch. No matter how much you hate your job, being employed is better than having to shoulder the responsibility of finding your own clients.
But a new breed of young Singaporean is becoming more and more open to entrepreneurship. There are also more and more Singaporeans dipping their toes into the waters of the freelance life.
Not only are these people more willing than their parents to give up stable employment in order to chase their dreams of becoming small business owners, they’re also okay with abandoning the promise of a big paycheck at the top of the corporate ladder.
This is somewhat surprising, given the fact that Singapore is more expensive than ever. Here are three reasons why the tides are a-changing.
Despite the high cost of living, not having to pay rent gives young Singaporeans more room for experimentation
There’s no doubt that the high cost of living is particularly to blame for people’s kiasu, kiasee attitudes. We’re trained at an early age to think that the end is always near, so we’d better suck it up and take the safest and highest paying route.
Now, if Singaporeans had to deal with the high cost of living, all while trying to pay exorbitant rents on a fresh grad’s salary, you can bet there’d be far fewer who’d dare to take the plunge and become entrepreneurs. How to, when you pay $800 for a room in an HDB flat shared with 4 other people that’s a one hour commute away from the city?
Despite the fact that living with parents until marriage has sounded the death knell for many a young Singaporean’s love life, this practice does free up resources and give people leeway to experiment with their careers.
You might argue that if rent were cheaper, more people would be able to become entrepreneurs even while living away from home. While that is no doubt true, paying $0 rent is still better than paying even $300 or $500.
And despite the fact that most Singaporeans contribute to household expenses when they start working, most people get to take a break from doing that when they quit their jobs to start something new, which is also why sabbaticals are getting more popular amongst the young and unencumbered.
The opportunity cost of giving up a job is not as high as it was before
Other than the promise of a steady paycheck and employers’ CPF contributions, many young Singaporeans feel they are not really giving up that much when they quit their jobs.
Gone are the pre-internet days when the workplace was the main site of social interactions, and people stayed with employers for a long time in hopes that they’d take care of them for life.
Company loyalty is now a thing of a past, as evidenced by the amount of job hopping that’s going on. It’s totally possible to spend half your life working for one company only to be unceremoniously retrenched because of economic restructuring or your job getting outsourced to cheaper, better and faster people. So why waste your life being loyal to your employer?
And while there are still some people who genuinely enjoy chilling with their coworkers, there are more and more who complain that long hours at work are getting in the way of dating, spending time with their families and basically having a life.
In the meantime, hours at work have gotten longer and longer. I remember that back in primary school, most people’s parents got home in time for dinner, often when the sun was still up. These days, Singaporean parents complain about not being able to arrive at home until late at night, and the republic has garnered a reputation for working some of the longest hours in the world.
Starting a business certainly isn’t busy, and can involve working day and night for uncertain returns. But isn’t that what many young employees are already doing in their jobs?
Stability and wellbeing at work is going downhill for many overworked, burnt out young Singaporeans, so it’s not surprising that many feel they have less and less to lose by becoming their own boss.
The entrepreneurial community is growing
One of the biggest things preventing Singaporeans from being entrepreneurs is simply because it’s scary to try to make it on your own. You’ve got no colleagues from whom to obtain support, and you’ve got to face up to scepticism from family and friends
Even if what you’re doing is as fail-proof is giving tuition, long lonely days facing nobody but your clients can take their toll, which this tutor will attest to.
But there are signs that Singapore’s startup ecosystem is growing, which enables entrepreneurs to feel like they’re part of a community and bounce ideas off one another.
It’s now much easier for wannabe entrepreneurs to connect with like-minded people and feed off their energy, simply by joining one of the many coworking spaces that’s mushroomed all over the island.
This is pertinent not just to people in the tech startup scene, but also anybody else who’s working for themselves. Just being able to connect with other entrepreneurs and sole proprietors can really boost your motivation.
As someone who does all of my work remotely, I can say with certainty that over the past two years or so, I’ve met more and more people who do likewise.
It’s no longer difficult to find someone to work with at a random cafe in the afternoon, or to have supper with at 3am on a weeknight.
Conversations are no longer dominated by people’s complaints about their bosses or discussions about their bonuses, because the types of work people are engaging in are becoming more and more diverse.
And as a result, I find myself feeling even more motivated to continue doing the work that I do *pass the tissues*.
While quitting your job to start a business used to sound like something only the very daring or the very rich would do, it now feels a lot more accessible to normal people like you and me. That’s going to go a long way in encouraging young people to take the plunge.
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