MORE university graduates now apply to join the funeral industry as the line is no longer seen as "uncool" or "unfashionable" and is viewed with less disgust, Lianhe Wanbao reported yesterday.
Ang Ziqian, director of Ang Chin Mo Casket, told the Chinese evening daily that increased media coverage on the industry in recent years was one reason for its greater appeal to young people.
The 35-year-old currently employs seven graduates who help run his company's daily operations.
"However grand a person's degree is, he has to start off in this line with learning the basics. Promotion is decided solely by performance," stressed Mr Ang.
Basic skills include cleansing dead bodies, applying make-up on them, dressing them up in burial clothes and transporting them.
According to Darren Cheng, a director at Direct Funeral Services, the first job application from a graduate that his company received came some three years ago.
After that, more came in, reaching on average five per month now, said the 31-year-old.
Alvin Leow was a promising bank officer when he quit his job some six months ago to join Mr Cheng's company, which is headed by Jenny Tay, the latter's wife.
Mr Leow, 32, told Wanbao that his father was furious when he first revealed his intention to switch careers.
"I found this industry not as simple as it seems. It can help families face up to death and get over psychological barriers," he said, explaining why he was determined to win his parents' consent.
Funeral director is now the term for what traditionally was called "undertaker" - which in Singapore evokes the image of little-educated, shabbily-dressed men of a certain age.
"Previously, the young and educated ones were also interested in undertaking but they balked, deterred by the image of the job," said Victor Hoo, founder of Singapore Funeral Services.
"But now we have many good-looking graduates from both genders in the line, and that has greatly enhanced our image," the 46-year-old pointed out.
According to Mr Hoo, more young people are forward-thinking and dismissive of superstition, and so dare to be in the business of the dead.
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