Life anywhere in the world will have its own positive and negative qualities. There is definitely no such thing as the best nor worst life, but there are several factors which affect the quality of life. All along, Singapore has been globally recognised for its safe and secure environment. But unbeknownst to many, living in Singapore has many other pros and cons too. In this post, I will only be focusing on the unfavourable aspects of the Singaporean life.
First and foremost, the most detrimental characteristic of Singapore – the overwhelming focus on economic development. What should the aim of any particular country be? To increase GDP? No, it is to improve the standard of living of the citizens! But the government has just been building new tourist sites and revamping infrastructure, so as to attract more tourists, when they could spend those money to increase wages and lowering taxes. The government has fixed economic growth as one of Singapore’s goals. Because of this, people have to focus on their job even more. It has been found that, Singaporeans have one of the highest average working hours, as compared to other developed countries.
Despite the long working hours, Singaporeans working in the lower-income sector of the workforce have a relatively low salary. Singapore and Norway are very similar countries in terms of economy. However, a low-wage worker in Norway (Accommodation and Food service activities) earns a median income of $5,927, roughly 6 times higher than a low-wage worker in Singapore (Cleaners, Labourers And Related Workers), who would only earn $1,000. Thus, for about the same effort put into the job, people in Norway earn more money than people in Singapore. Furthermore, Singapore’s economic growth has caused costs of living to rise. Tremendously. These extreme costs of living make it increasingly difficult for low-income people to cope with their daily lives. In Singapore, to own a car, a Certificate of Entitlement (COE) is required. This can cost up to SGD$60,000 (US$50,000), which is much more expensive than many other countries. Also, buying a flat is one of the biggest financial burdens for many Singaporeans. With such high living costs, how can Singaporeans not work long hours?
Every year, Singapore also introduces more immigrants into the society. In 2010, the Singapore Statistics Bureau announced that one in every three people living in Singapore is a foreigner. Singapore already has one of the highest population density in the world. However, even when overcrowding and traffic congestion poses a huge problem to society, the government is still relentless in the influx of immigrants. The government claims that, this is absolutely necessary due to the ageing population of Singapore, and thus, the need to bring in migrants for a vibrant workforce. However, if we can all agree that economic development is not crucial for Singapore, then we would be able to tune down immigration rates, which would then fix all these problems.
Like I have mentioned, Singapore has an ageing population. With a greater dependency on economically active workers, this would result in a greater financial burden on them. Not only do they have to struggle with the rising costs of living, but they would have to take care of a greater number of people. In order to ensure adequate social and medical facilities for the elderly, taxes would have to be increased as well.
As Singapore is a meritocratic society, this ensures that everyone is judged based on ability and talent, instead of wealth or status. However, how does Singapore measure ability and talent? By grades and results. Thus, this has transformed Singapore into a very results-oriented society. In terms of education, diplomas and academic achievements are favoured by employers. In terms of sports, Singapore rewards Olympic gold-medallists SGD$1 million, instead of funding the training process for athletes. In terms of arts… Well, let’s be honest. Singapore has significantly lesser importance placed on the arts, as compared to sciences. A very asinine mindset of Singapore, is that for the same area of land, a science-related infrastructure will generate a greater income than an arts-related facility. Again, if we were to lower the focus placed on economic growth, talent in the arts can be more appreciated and recognised in Singapore.
Last but not least, Singapore is a nanny-state. We may have the least corrupt government in the world, but our government literally controls everything. Loose control is acceptable, but excessive control restricts freedom. One major aspect of control in Singapore is media censorship. In Singapore, the Media Development Authority censors media that is considered ‘inappropriate’, based on their subjective judgement. (Please refer to this post of mine to learn more about MDA and the media censorship in Singapore.) Censorship is justifiable, but excessive censorship is not acceptable.
These few points are but just a few of Singapore’s negative aspects. And this post is entirely my own opinion. I am but just a student, and I have yet to experience the extremities of living in Singapore, so I might not have the right to list out these characteristics.
In a nutshell, as much as Singapore is a terrible place to live in, due to all the factors I have mentioned above, the fact that it is one of the most safest and secure place to live in, negates all the negative aspects of living in Singapore. Overall, I am grateful to have been born in Singapore, but I feel that these negative qualities of the Singaporean life can be mended. The root cause of most of the problems pertaining to Singapore is the over-emphasis on economic development. Thus, if the importance on economic growth was to be played down, Singapore can be a much more better place. Of course, this is just in theory and there might be new negative qualities that appear after that. So, all we can do is to hope that the government does what is right, and what is truly beneficial for all Singaporeans.