Are they really the worst jobs?

PHOTO: Are they really the worst jobs?

A recent report by career website CareerCast ranked 200 jobs from best to worst. Actuaries - people who calculate and manage risk - are at the top of the list, while newspaper reporters are at the bottom. BENITA AW YEONG investigates the lower-ranked occupations and asks:

Second nature to me

WHO: Liow Thian Hock, 51

OCCUPATION: Butcher

YEARS ON THE JOB: 30

RANK: 183 out of 200

Mr Liow started learning the ropes of butchering from his father as a mere 14-year-old.

"The process of cutting and chopping at the wet market would begin at about 1am market," says Mr Liow in Mandarin.

Earning between $2,000 and $3,000 a month, he works nine hours a day, six days a week, at a meat processing plant in the west of Singapore, which supplies pork to supermarkets and restaurants.

Best and worst jobs 2013

The company declined to be named.

He says de-boning the carcasses of pigs is no piece of cake.

Youngsters these days don't want to do this job and it's easy to see why.

Aside from enduring low temperatures of about nine to 12 deg C - which helps maintain the freshness of the meat - you have to be on your feet all day and have strong arms to perform the task of chopping and sorting.

The only time you get to sit down is during the 20-minute morning tea break and the one-hour lunch break.

"Some suffer from leg cramps when they first start out because they're not used to it," he remarks.

The butchers do not talk much while working because getting distracted could mean hurting yourself, explains the soft-spoken Mr Liow.

The sight of pale slabs of pig tinged with red being chopped with gusto, then slapped into metal containers according to their parts was a bit overwhelming for this reporter.

But the experienced butcher doesn't bat an eyelid. When asked what he hates about the job, or the most challenging part of it, he has trouble answering.

After some time, he says: "It's work, and work that I've done for so long, so it comes easy for me, like second nature."

These days, he makes between $2,000 to $3,000 a month (checked), which is a comfortable amount since both his daughters are working.

Butchering is a dying trade he is keen to pass on.

"If you're keen to learn, you'll probably take about six months to pick up the basics."

[[{"fid":"781352","view_mode":"default","type":"media","attributes":{"height":267,"width":410,"border":"0","class":"media-element file-default"}}]] 

Goats don't talk back

WHO: John Hay, 60

OCCUPATION: Goat Farmer

YEARS ON THE JOB: 20

RANKING: 190 out of 200

A three-year-old Lamborghini sits quietly in the parking area of Mr John Hay's Lim Chu Kang dairy farm.

The car is a bright shade of orange, making it hard to miss.

When this reporter expresses surprise at the $1.6 million ride, he is quick to clarify: It is the only expensive reward he has allowed himself in the 25 years of running the farm, which makes money primarily by selling goat milk.

"It has a mileage of just about 7,000km, because I hardly have time to drive it," he jokes.

It's not hard to believe, since the only day the farm closes is on the first day of Chinese New Year.

Mr Hay's day typically begins at 5.30am, when he feeds the baby goats at his farm.

Milking his 800 goats, which is mainly done through a goat milking machinery, starts two hours later, after he has had breakfast.

On average, he sells about 500 bottles of goat milk a day, many of which are delivered to his customers' doorstep. An 800ml bottle costs $7.

He also charges for providing educational tours to schools and tour groups who visit the farm.

Mr Hay begins trimming the toenails of his goats at about 2pm, with the help of three other workers who live on the farm with him.

"You've got to tie the goats down, hold their legs tight and then make a cut," he says. It is back-breaking work, but he prefers not to use machinery to do the job, even though they exist.

"It's not a one-size-fits-all process and it requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. Do it badly and the goats could bleed," he says.

He has no qualms about admitting that it is dirty work not meant for everyone. After all, he has lost count of the number of times he has had to crawl awake at ungodly hours just to pull a kid out of its pregnant mother, whose howls make sleeping impossible.

He doesn't think that his job is all that bad at all.

"There's a great sense of satisfaction when customers travel on a weekly basis to this

The best perk? Animals can't quarrel with you.

"At an office, you've got to deal with people relations. At the farm, goats can't scold you even if you grumble away at them," he says, chuckling.[[{"fid":"781353","view_mode":"default","type":"media","attributes":{"height":267,"width":410,"border":"0","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]

It's a hot adventure

WHO: Vellakvttidevar Ramu, 45

OCCUPATION: Roofer

YEARS ON THE JOB: 16

RANK: 192 out of 200

Mr Vellakvttidevar Ramu never leaves home for work without taking two T-shirts along, on top of the one he is wearing.

He is the man you'd call if water starts leaking through the roof of your house. To make a living, the Indian national endures the unrelenting sun while perched atop two or three-storey buildings.

"When the heat gets bad, we take 15-minute breaks every half- or one hour," says Mr Ramu in halting English.

The sweltering heat is also why he needs the extra T-shirts.

He is more comfortable conversing in Tamil, explains the cheerful man, who has a wife and two children aged nine and 12 in Chennai.

He is not sure if he could land a job like this in India, since it is "more competitive" there, he adds, a toothy grin emerging.

A re-roofing project, which could involve painting roofs with special waterproof paint, can take anywhere between three or four days and a few weeks.

He and his team of two workers, who work for waterproofing roofing company The Roofing Specialist, also do paint work for terrace houses.

He picked up the skills required for roof work when he first arrived here in 1997, adding that he remembers feeling nervous looking down from height in the initial days.

These days, he can even walk along the roof - properly harnessed, of course. Fortunately, he has never fallen.

These days, he gets paid between $1,400 and $1,500 a month, a portion of which goes to his family back home.

He sees his wife and children once a year, but does not seem to miss them too much. Working in Singapore is an adventure of sorts, and one he does not intend to cut short.

He says: "Perhaps I'll think about going back... in five or six years' time? Who knows?" Happy faces are shiok

Five days a week, rain or shine, he sorts and delivers mail for 1,000 to 2,000 homes here.

The physically-gruelling routine does not change, even during the Ramadan season, when Muslims like Mr Ruslan Ebuden fast.

And if the mail arrives late - even for a few hours - he has to face the grumbles of some residents who live in the Upper Serangoon and Hougang area, which he has served for the past 15 years.

"Those who complain are few and far between lah. But I can only smile and say sorry when it happens," says Mr Ruslan, who makes between $1,800 and $2,000 a month.

Still, the tone of pride in his voice is unmistakable when he talks about the job.

"When I see the overjoyed faces of people who receive long-awaited mail, the feeling is very shiok," he says in a mix of English and Malay.

On weekdays, he reports to the Upper Serangoon mailroom by 7.30am and spends several hours sorting the mail and manpower roster before heading out for deliveries at 10am.

He only knocks off at about 6 or 7pm. Friends have commented that the job of a postman is an easy one, he says with a small smirk.

"But I tell them, you ask just anyone to try it and they may not be able to do it," he says, adding the job requires significant patience and an eye for detail.

He recalls the time a family thanked him profusely after he helped them locate an overseas letter containing important information.

"The daughter had been waiting for news from the UK university she wanted to attend, but it turned out the letter could not be delivered because the overseas sender missed out the unit number," he says.

Because he had been serving the area for many years, he went the extra mile to do his own checks and was able to make the delivery despite the incomplete address.

"Till today, they still say hello to me when they see me," he says with a wide smile.

When he goes on leave, residents sometimes call the mailroom to check on the whereabouts of their friendly postman, says Mr Ruslan's supervisor, Mr Hussin Abu Bakar.

The great sense of camaraderie at the mailroom is also the main reason why he has never seriously considered a career switch.

"We joke around every day, and it's we are like a big family. Time really flies when I work," he says with a chuckle.[[{"fid":"781354","view_mode":"default","type":"media","attributes":{"height":267,"width":410,"border":"0","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]

Pros outweigh cons

WHO: Shine Koh, 23

OCCUPATION: Actress

YEARS ON THE JOB: 2

RANK: 197 out of 200

She graduated with an accounting degree from Nanyang Technological University two years ago.

But instead of becoming an auditor like most of her peers, Shine Koh, a finalist in last year's The New Paper New Face modelling competition, turned down a job offer from Deloitte - one of the big four accounting firms - all in the name of pursuing her acting dream.

Close friends and family have been supportive of her decision, but some acquaintances are puzzled by her choice to take the less conventional path.

She says:

"I think that despite the challenges actors face, it really isn't as bad as what the ranking suggests! The satisfaction derived from grasping a role well outweighs the challenges at the end of the day."

"I'm not the sort of person who can sit still for long hours. After my internship (at Deloitte) I realised the nine-to-five grind wasn't what I enjoyed," she says, adding that she sees herself as a headstrong and stubborn person.

She first got into acting at the tender age of nine or 10, when she participated in a kids' variety programme on TV.

"I remember feeling very comfortable in front of the camera," says Koh . These days, she plays supporting roles in MediaCorp drama serials, short films and TV commercials. She also takes on modelling jobs and gives tuition to supplement her income, which she declines to reveal.

In a particularly bad month, she took home $1,000, which she estimates to be half or a third of what she would make if she worked as an auditor.

The erratic salary stream is an aspect she often struggles with, confesses Koh, who feels especially troubled when she sees how tired her mother, a vegetable packer at a supermarket, is after a long day of work.

"Standing for eight hours a day and six days a week can really take a toll on a person with arthritis," she explains, adding that she hopes she can make enough to allow her mother to retire soon.


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