In the shoes of 'invisible' workers

In the shoes of 'invisible' workers

I met security guard Edmund Chua in August 2012. The 57-year-old stood out among the many workers I had met as part of my job covering manpower for The Straits Times.

As we talked, he told me about the long hours he puts in - 12 hours a day, six days a week - doing a job that many look down on. And he was describing how tired he was.

Then he stopped, sighed, and said wearily: "Mr Toh, you are a reporter, how would you understand what we go through?"

Days went by. Weeks even. But for some reason, what Mr Chua said stayed with me. He had pricked my conscience, and planted the idea of putting myself in the shoes of low-wage earners and people doing "invisible jobs".

It took two years, but I finally managed to do just that. Over the past three Sundays, I have reported on my stints as a security guard, a cabby and an eldercare worker.

I picked those jobs because they represent three distinct segments of the services sector, which employs about two in three workers here.

Security guards are low-wage workers in an industry that has to battle low morale and cope despite a shortage of about 10,000 people.

Eldercare jobs are unglamorous but workers in this area will become increasingly essential as Singapore's population ages.

Taxi drivers? Practically everyone who has taken a taxi in Singapore has a long list of complaints about cabbies and usually an unflattering opinion of them.

I spent 11 days in July as a cabby, another four days that month as a security guard at a District 9 condominium and a Little India worksite, and five days in August as an eldercare worker at the Touch Seniors Activity Centre in Geylang Bahru.

These experiences gave me a greater insight into the three jobs than I had imagined possible.

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