Guide To Singapore Work Culture For Expats
Singapore is home to many foreigners. Every day, the country lures entrepreneurs as well as workers with its lucrative packages. Statistics indicated by the Ministry of Manpower MOM and Statista in 2017shows that 36% of Singapore’s workforce are expats. This number totals to 1.37 million out of the total of 5.9 million.
The government has since tried to reduce the number by restricting granting of work permits and S-passes. It has also attempted to cover the gap of over reliance of foreign workers by establishing institutions to train Singapore citizens to become a skilled, productive workforce.
Why the country has been populated by expat workers
Although the country is relatively small, the Singaporean economy is anything but small. In fact, this tiny Southeast Asian country is one of the modern international city-states and the freest economies across the world.
According to The Global Competitiveness report of 2017-2018, Singapore ranks the third out of 137 countries. That is to say that the economy of Singapore is booming–it is where all investors and business entrepreneurs are looking to grow their wealth.
Another reason why Singapore houses workers from other countries is the lucrative income workers are promised. Many expats in the country are high earners who have a vast number of benefits under their employment terms like house allowance, transport allowance, payment of school fees, child care, medical allowance which are backed up by the relatively low taxes.
Expats live comfortably with a considerable amount of disposable income. The affluent, comfortable, and stable environment makes it easier for individuals to adjust to the Singapore lifestyle and culture.
The work culture in Singapore
For expats intending to work in Singapore for the first time, the whole issue may make you feel quite apprehensive. Typically, working in a foreign country is not easy as you are unaware of the work culture in the country. Singapore is a cosmopolitan with diverse cultures where the West blends with the East. The work culture in Singapore is virtually a mixture of both Western and Asian cultural influences.
This mixture brings out the unwritten cultural rules that govern how workers carry themselves—in this context referring to you, the expat. The government of Singapore has not established any approaches in relations to work cultures, which offers a relaxed environment for the new member.
However, big western MNCs in Singapore tend to exhibit the western-way work culture, while the majority of private Singapore companies and local government have a higher influence on the Asian culture. Singaporeans are characterized by a predominantly clear authority structure, strict attitudes towards life and distinct social status lines.
Surprisingly, Chinese make up to 74.3% of Singapore’s population. With this in mind, it is not unpopular to find most local companies being most influenced by the traditional Chinese culture and values. Relationships, however, translates into a culture of hierarchy, where individuals from the lower rank in the hierarchy system become loyal to their subordinate status while also respecting the formal hierarchical authority. Well, people regularly break the rules of command or fearlessly question the decisions made by their superiors
On the other side of MNCs in Singapore, there is less power distance between levels. Here, managers and directors are typically more willing to share their thoughts, ideas, and decisions with their subordinates. Most decisions can be questioned, and hot debates may be the final option when there are disagreements, which also purports that it is not uncommon to have arguments but the issues have to be handled with utmost respect.
As a new worker, you don’t want to ruin your reputation by engaging on unreasonable arguments with your superiors or employees. The Singaporean work culture demands that there be mutual respect between the employer and the employee.
In the traditional western work culture, the people look up to individual heroes, innovation, personal achievement, and autonomy. Individual accomplishments are highly recognized and respected and the employee with the most significant ability usually gains most in the company. Additionally, creativity and progress are also valued and rewarded handsomely in this culture.
However, this is not the case with a majority of local companies and Singaporeans. They practice group centeredness—the act of valuing cooperation amongst the group members to maintain peace in the team. In any company, teamwork, as well as group work, is seen as the most valuable means of achieving goals in the most harmonious way.
Anti-group workers and behaviors of frequently disagreeing with the group ‘s ideas and decisions, putting personal needs above the group’s needs, boasting about one’s achievements or efforts is not tolerated in the Singaporean work culture as it can jeopardize the group’s harmony as well as causing division and low esteem among other members. The collectivist culture is often at its best when individuals work together and share equally the fruits or the rewards of the work compared to striving to acquire individual recognition. Employees learn from one another, share responsibilities, help each other, and celebrates the group’s achievements together.
Rules, more rules and more rules
Every institution is governed by laws. Things run as they’re because we have rules and the Singaporean work culture sets rules in accordance with the situation rather than the common universal principles. Singapore is known for its stringent rules in everything. The majority of local corporates do not fancy the aspect of having too many individuals coming up with their own crazy ideas, neither do they want to have an unfocused fragmentation of the prime business managed by over-confident or over-enthusiastic entrepreneurs.
This is commonly interpreted as a dictatorship where the vast majority of Singapore citizens cannot invent or are not innovative because they’re conditioned and trained to be followers rather than idea generators. This rules-and-rules culture was seen as ideal in the past but recently, the culture has slowly started melting way as the idea of nurturing ‘innovators’ rather than ‘followers’ has been developed.
The young people are encouraged to learn new ideas to help them compete favorably in the growing global economy. Multiple initiatives have been launched to ensure that Singapore citizens become productive.