Mailbox: Work less, earn more? Not likely...

Mailbox: Work less, earn more? Not likely...

SINGAPORE - Young Singaporeans have been encouraged to believe they can work less hard than their parents did and yet earn ever rising salaries to enjoy the finer things in life ("Don't get overly obsessed with work-life balance"; last Sunday).

There is nothing wrong with opting for "work-life balance", only that earnings must be factored into the equation.

Other things being equal, it is not possible for one with "more life" and "less work" to earn as much as one with "more work" and "less life".

The relegation of earnings as a key variable in the work-life equation is why workers have been lured into the false promised land of "work less, earn more".

Or maybe not. It is indeed possible to work less and earn more if our workers have the skills, attitude, commitment and discipline of, say, their German counterparts.

The Germans work short hours but are dead serious, skilful and disciplined when they are at work. So they offer impeccable goods ranging from Graf von Faber-Castell fountain pens to BMWs. The world happily contributes to their high wages by paying premium prices.

But our workers are light years away from their German counterparts. They, especially the younger ones, lack the patience and commitment to stay the course in a particular trade or craft, thereby robbing themselves of the opportunity to build up masterly skills on which the world places a premium.

The German passion for taking pride in one's chosen trade and perfecting it, not just in big-name global corporations but also in small and medium-sized enterprises, is alien to young Singaporeans hoping for the quickest progression in wages along the path of greatest ease and convenience.

Work less, earn more? We are a long way from that.

Cheng Shoong Tat

This article was first published on August 24, 2014.
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