Young Singaporean workers (particularly HR and admin roles) don’t tend to stay in jobs for very long and will go after slightly larger pay checks over job security. Why? Because most jobs receive an Annual Wage Supplement – an almost guaranteed bonus equivalent to one month’s extra salary. So a slightly higher wage means a bigger bonus.
But what to do with all this cash? Shop of course! Orchard – the busiest, fanciest and most Western of the shopping districts – boasts all of the high end stores one would expect to find on Rodeo Drive: Burberry, Hermes, LV. But don’t think you have to go to Orchard, Singapore has over 200 shopping malls of all sizes so you can spend your bonus money pretty much anywhere.
Got thirsty from all that shopping, then head to one of the 122 Starbucks or 64 Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf stores. Despite Singaporean “kopi” (stronger coffee from stalls made with condensed milk) being available for as little as S$1 (USD 70¢), thousands still flock to the Western chains and pay 6 times that amount.
It is not only the rich that have expensive taste; my colleagues are always on the lookout for the latest trends and most luxurious bags. Students who have done internships with us were concerned about having their gold membership at Starbucks expire more so than getting a job after university. It all boils down to one factor – image. The image of success: the stylised hair, the bag from an exclusive member’s only gym, the Starbucks ice caramel macchiato.
This lifestyle does not describe all Singaporeans but an interesting sub-set. This also does not mean this sub-set is shallow but rather have all their needs met and so the only thing remaining is their wants. This group of people tend to still live with their parents, sometimes until 30, and therefore lack any true financial responsibility, so when their friends decide to go on a shopping trip to Bangkok, why not go? Their parents provide an often used safety net. If they overspend, they won’t get kicked out for not paying rent – there is no rent for them to pay.
This way of spending one’s early 20s is not wrong or right, it’s just different and it’s the way things are done here for some people. Given the opportunity to save what I want and spend what I want with no risk, I would probably do the same thing – wouldn’t you?