Work-life balance seems to be one of the most popular buzzwords among HR leaders and employees alike. As the demands keep growing, employees are often required to sacrifice their personal lives to meet business goals. This condition leads to imbalance between professional and personal lives. And apparently, Singaporeans face similar issue.
Singapore, being one of the world’s leading economy, is known for its longest working hours in Southeast Asia. The latest report from Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Labour Market Statistical Information in 2016 notes that an average Singaporean works 45.6 hours per week.
This figure is even higher than OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) finding on global working hours. OECD report in 2016 finds that Mexico holds the longest working hours among other surveyed countries, with ‘only’ 42.8 hours per week, followed by Costa Rica and South Korea.
Singapore government through MOM has advocated a policy to limit the long working hours to 44 hours per week. One of the primary reasons is to achieve work-life balance and create better working culture. However, given the latest stats showing exceeding number of working hours than the ministry’s initial recommendation, it seems that work-life balance is a need of the hour among Singaporean workers.
In 2016, Randstad Award survey reveals 47 percent Singaporean workers continue to work more than stipulated working hours. When we breakdown the percentage, the overtime workers consist of 52 percent men and 41 percent women.
However, employers are not the only ones to be blamed for the difficult realisation of work-life balance in Singapore. Employees are actually fully aware of the consequences of this long working hours. The survey notes that despite heavy work schedules, only 7 percent respondents state they would prefer to work less and 47 percent respondents seem to be contented with their current schedule.
So the question remains: What makes Singaporeans willing to work overtime?
Randstad reveals that the prospect of earning more is the key motivator, with 80 percent respondents stating that money is the major factor. The other factors, why Singaporeans choose working more than spending time at home are career progression and promotion (41 percent) as well as personal development (33 percent).
Interestingly, the same survey also highlights that work-life balance is actually gaining more attention among Singaporean workers. While salary and benefits remain the first factor for choosing an employer, work-life balance takes the second place of most important consideration before Singaporean accepts a job offer. In 2012, only 32 percent respondents see the importance of work-life balance. However, the percentage keeps increasing each year, as in 2016 it becomes 52 percent.
These statistics indicate that while the concept of work-life balance is popular among Singaporeans, it is less put to practice by Gen X, Y and Baby boomers who choose to work overtime. However Millennials in particular prioritise work-life balance, with 71 percent respondents showing strong preference to work more flexibly.
This phenomenon makes Singapore case interesting. While they want to keep their professional and personal lives healthy, they are willing to work more for better income and career progression.
To overcome this issue, the Singapore government has fostered the significance of work-life balance through several policies. Besides working hour limitations, MOM has also launched Strategies for work-life harmony which includes flexible work arrangements, leave schemes, and employee support schemes.
Next read: Happiness at Work. Pleasure or Fulfilment?