Working in Singapore vs Working in Australia, a trying hard to be unbiased comparison.

This is a general personal opinion but I will try to make it as unbiased as possible, so you can judge whether the grass is greener on the other side. I currently live in Australia.

Retail and Customer service

Now to the PMET level:

Frankly, its very hard to compare but I can relate to you what I know.

For locals only:

  • Some PMET jobs are reserved for citizens and PR in Australia. i.e. banking sector.
  • For Singapore, besides the NS, civil service and taxi drivers, I really can’t think of jobs which are reserved solely for locals.


  • Australia has a job bank and regularly invite those unemployed to be interviewed by various employers and offer them free training to upgrade their skills. Those who get a job are generally well-paid enough to survive. My co-tenant who is a citizen born and bred in Australia, has been out of work for almost 2 years. He was an engineer from the mining industry and he told me he wasn’t hard up for a job. I choose the employer, not they choose me. Those unemployed are usually on benefits, i.e. A$1500 – 2000 per month. This is a social problem for Australia, many people don’t want to work. Some take the benefits for alcohol and cigarettes.
  • In Singapore, locals have to fend for themselves, you cannot be unemployed for long or the cost of living will make you makan (eat) yourself. Thus, the survival mentality is there. I brought the survival mentality to Australia.

Work rate / productivity:

  • In Singapore, higher work rate, expect quantity rather than quality. Generally, work done to reward/compensation ratio is generally low if you compare to 1st world countries. Singaporeans generally work the longest hours in the world. I think its normal to work more than 10-12 hours a day, 60 hours a week. I stayed over at the office a few times to do paper work. I do it because I am also paid a commission. My friend working in A*star research, clocks 55-60 hours per week without incentives. Huh??? no overtime pay? He said as a researcher, you are judged by the number of projects you do, not the hours you work. But he is still pressured to do more because of expectations and competition. Those in the PHD level even worse, 70 hours per week is expected. The PRC researchers really do it because they don’t have anything else to do, no family here unlike him.
  • In Australia, work hard and play hard! Lots of holidays, and quality is more important than quantity. i.e. In Singapore, I can do 3 tasks in one day but in Australia, 1 task per day is enough. 8 – 10 hours per day work is the norm, on Fridays, some workers leave early for the weekend holidays. No work on Saturdays generally.

Job Competition

  • In Australia, its very high because there are not enough PMET jobs to go around. Government has a local first hiring policy. Companies have to provide evidence that they can’t get a local, and govt agencies will get them interviews from those who are currently unemployed for a period of time before they are allowed to hire foreigners. Many foreigners from around the world want to come to Australia to work.
  • I hope Singapore does what the Australians are doing now to protect Singaporeans. Its fair game in Singapore and recently lots of news of employment discrimination of locals especially those with NS liabilities surfacing. You know I visited MOM before and usually there are long queues of people waiting to see the MOM officers. Tan Chuan Jin may be overworked himself but I feel he is trying to do something carefully without jeopardizing the current economic status quo. Then again, he is just an acting minister. The “acting” word is a BAD reference. He should be called Interim minister. I believe we should appreciate what he is doing now, at least there is progress, but more is expected. May be 2 ministers should helm the MOM portfolio? or more budget to carry out pro-Singaporean hiring policies or expand MOM’s manpower or give unions real power to help Singaporeans? I believe something can be done, the job bank for PMET is a good idea but you know what, many employers refuse to pay their workers well.

Growth potential

  • If you are in good stead in Singapore, growth potential is actually higher than Australia. You see there are too many people as well as rich people and their businesses. If you are in sales, that’s good.
  • In Australia, apart from the smaller customer base for companies, I don’t think we Asians rank favorably among the top executives. I could be stereotyping but I have heard stories that locals do tend to promote their own kind first. There are still some form of job discrimination here in Australia but I am unsure the extent of it. You know the number of PRC nationals outnumber all other foreign nationalities (except Vietnamese) by approximately 7:1. So some locals think that all Chinese or those look-alike come from China. One ang moh asked me which part of China is Singapore situated. The question is “will we be second-class citizens in Australia?”


  • In Singapore, non-existent or not pro-workers. I believe unions in the private sector should become active (with plenty of govt support and funding) to help MOM share the burden. I really have no idea where is NTUC heading.
  • In Australia, workers’ union are active and quite powerful.

Your boss

  • Australia, Bosses and supervisors generally respect their workers and really go out-of-the-way to help them. If you are in a team, you are being treated like a family member and they really work hard and play hard together.
  • Singapore, its quite varied but generally, when bosses organize social activities or team bonding events, some workers feel like it’s still work, for show only, show face just to satisfy the boss. I participated in a company team bonding retreat in Desaru last year, held on a weekend (taking up precious family time). What my ex-colleagues and I did was:
  1. wait and wait and wait, then
  2. See or participate in some sports. Those who kena appointed must play. And if you are chosen, you must come to the venue 3 hours earlier.  There are simply too many employees, so the majority just sit around do nothing.
  3. attend motivational talk so that our future sales / productivity can increase. Many dozed off while some sneak off somewhere.
  4. wait for dinner or prepare for stage performance during dinner
  5. Dinner time: get drunk or socialize abit
  6. prepare to go home or stay in the designated room

My Aussie friends told me their team bonding retreats are usually very fun. In the morning, there is the team bonding event where everybody participates actively. Then, later gather together for lunch catered in the resort. Then after, you can do whatever you want in the resort or even organize among yourselves what games you want to play all paid for, i.e. go kart or just relaxing around the pool / jacuzzi. Or you can choose a spa massage (not free) or go shopping. Family members are allowed but I don’t know if the bosses are generous enough to pay for them… The difference is choice and generosity.

The major difference between Singaporean and Australian employers is cultural. Basically, Australians focus on their workers’ needs more, and workers reciprocate by doing well, producing quality work, being really responsible and proud of their jobs. But there are also those who just ride along and get too comfortable and lazy.

Singaporean employers prefer to focus on the KPI. If KPI good, pay good, enjoy the fruits of labour yourselves. If KPI suck, be prepared to be pressured hard or resign. Its good in a way though.

I dunno how to effectively solve the problem in Singapore but I reckon giving power back to unions can be a start. Unions can take the lead in forming communal spirit and self regulate. Some say its bad and make people lazy blah blah blah… but we live in a first world civilized country, this is a good part of the social fabric taken out.




  1. Pingback: Singapore vs Australia, the cheap and the best! | Embracing your identity
  2. Kel 켈빈 · September 30, 2014

    Hi, i just read a few of your blog articles on working in Australia, it’s very interesting. I’m kinda interested to work in Australia, I’m a makeup artist with 6 years of experience, will it be hard to get a job there? And which type of VISA will I need to apply? Thanks in advance ;D


  3. Pingback: The Best Migration Plan for Young Singaporeans | Embracing Your Identity

Tock cock sing song play mahjong here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s