Wed. May 29th, 2024

TL;DR – Are millennial and Gen Z workers a misunderstood lot? How do we better support them in their career? 

Millennial and Gen Z workers – really that bad huh?

Millennial and Gen Z workers have garnered some sort of an unfair stereotyping in the past few years. Many in the generations prior see them as being laidback, entitled and narcissistic. Yet you know what, these young workers may be best suited to take us into SG100 with their confidence, enthusiasm and tech savviness.

As a strong advocate for young workers’ issues, Mr Desmond Choo, Director for Policy Division and Assistant Secretary-General of National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), aims to help millennial and Gen Z workers make the most of new job opportunities, especially those highlighted in the S$4.5 billion Industry Transformation Programme. The next 50 years will be shaped by our millennials and Gen Zs. We all need to work together to best help our millennials and young workers succeed at work and in society. So yes, we do need to help them, to help US!

“How can we best help millennials to succeed?”, Desmond in his maiden Parliament speech.


Millennials and Gen Zs: A fortunate lot?

Millennials and Gen Zs are a fortunate lot, with breakthrough technological advancements, instant gratification and a wealth of opportunities within their grasp. Or… are they?

Deloitte’s eighth annual Millennial Survey revealed that these young workers are facing ‘uneasiness and pessimism’ about their careers, among other things like their lives and the world around them…

Quite frankly, millennials and Gen Zs have both the fortune and misfortune of living in an extremely fast-changing world, never experienced the ‘luxury’ of stability like the generations before them. This, in itself can create stress. They need to be supported because they are the ones who will take us into SG100. In other words, help them to help ourselves lah…

So, what are some of their woes and worries when it comes to their careers? We spoke to these young workers to find out more.

Can’t keep up with the pace… My skills will be obsolete soon!

It’s no secret that the world is developing at a rapid pace. Skillsets that wowed 5 years ago have become increasingly obsolete. Scary thought, huh? To succeed today, young workers must develop new and valuable skills to help them stand out in a highly competitive global workforce.

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Fun fact though? Millennials and Gen Zs are more likely to proactively seek out self-development and training schemes as compared to baby boomers! That said, they are often held back by lack of resources, be it time or funds.

Your prayers answered, millennials and Gen Zs! Unless you’ve been living in outerspace the past few weeks, you would have heard all about the SkillsFuture credits top-up. Did I hear free credits? The top-up of $500 in SkillsFuture credits was lobbied by NTUC Assistant Secretary-General, Mr Patrick Tay, as part of the assistance package for employees and freelancers. Time to seek out courses to update your skillsets!

I don’t know any millennial or Gen Z who will be content with a forever-job in a forever-place. They seek challenges and environments that can fuel their growth. To this group, opportunities for growth take the form of career challenges and unique development programmes.

The labour movement aims to be relevant to more workers as jobs transform. To do so, it is getting more involved in company training so that workers can have better job prospects by being ready for new technology and business models. Labour chief, Mr Ng Chee Meng, told the media that the aim is to have 1,000 Company Training Committees (CTC) within the next two years, reaching some 330,000 workers. This gives enthusiastic millennials the opportunity to learn on the job, and improve their skillsets, thereby increasing their chances of career progression. So… no more excuses!

What ‘go global’?? I’m not ready for the world!

While millennials and Gen Zs are more exposed to the world than the generations before them, career-wise, many gripe that they might not be all that ready yet. ‘Going global’ and capturing global markets sound great, but this is only part of the equation. Companies and workers must be ready to attain their full potential. Our young workers, more than ever, must have the global mindset to advance in their careers.

Globalisation is not just a buzzword, you know.


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From the get-go, we need our young workers to think in such a way that they create products, design processes and develop campaigns for strong adaptability in global markets. All these can only be achieved when our young workers are exposed to the world.

“A new initiative, called the Asia-Ready Exposure Programme, will support young Singaporeans’ visits to cities in ASEAN, China or India,” said Mr Heng Swee Keat in his Singapore Budget 2020 speech. This means more Singaporean students from institutes of higher learning will have the chance to go abroad and undertake overseas stints, including internships, exchange programmes and service learning or study trips, as Singapore sets a target for 70% of them to gain overseas exposure.

Not just to travel and play play OK… These initiatives aim to equip young Singaporeans with cross-cultural skills and to gain a global perspective of the industry they may be interested in. Continued collaborations and initiatives with higher institutions will better support our millennial and Gen Z workers in this area.

How can our young workers can chase their rainbows? As Desmond Choo shared, “Nothing beats having insiders to give you an idea about the route you are about to take. It can take the form of the government sponsoring professional bodies and the Labour Movement conducting industry networking and workplace visits, followed by classroom sharing on certain jobs.”

Help is at hand for our millennial and Gen Z workers to discover their career identity by matching their passion and competencies to possible career options. ‘Chasing that rainbow’ can also encompass exploring career opportunities overseas and bringing best practices back to Singapore. Simply put, go forth, seek new and exciting opportunities, but come back home yah.

Foreign talent, foreign talent… Where do I stand?

So, once upon a time, Japan was the world’s second largest economy, on track to bypass the world’s largest economy, the US… Obviously, something must have gone wrong somewhere. Many things, in fact. But the biggest reason of it all was low birthrates coupled with rising life expectancy rates. This poses serious problems for the labour force as the shrinkage of the country’s labour force weakened its productive potential. As Forbes put it harshly, Japan now faces a stark choice: Open up to gaijins (outsiders) or else.

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Will the Japanese society be ready? If not, will it be ready to face the consequences of an ailing economy?


A nationwide survey showed 56 per cent of millennials felt there are too many foreign talents in Singapore. While millennial and Gen Z workers may gripe about yet another Angmo, or Chinese or Indian, competing for his job in the Big Four / Five / Six …, it is important to bear one message in mind.

A productive, strong and vibrant workforce is NOT a nice-to-have, it is a necessity.

C’mon. Admit it, almost every millennial or Gen Z dream of joining the Amazon / Google / Apple of the world. But the truth is, while we attract these big corporations, it is rather impossible to keep our front door closed to foreign talent? These MNCs will, without a doubt, want to recruit top global talents.

In his 2020 New Year message, Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, also stressed the importance of Singapore remaining an open economy in today’s volatile world. Bringing in top talents is crucial in helping to kickstart and build the capabilities of our workforce – while our workforce play catch-up. Fair enough?

The Dive: If Singapore chooses economic growth, do we risk leaving our workers behind?

That said, the Singapore government indeed adopts a Singaporean-first hiring policy. Well, the Fair Consideration Framework requires all employers in Singapore to consider the workforce in Singapore fairly for job opportunities. The government has taken a stronger stance against workplace discrimination by increasing penalties across the board, with our Ministry of Manpower scrutinising employers’ hiring practices more closely. So yes, definitely Singaporeans first!

Companies are enhancing strategies to stay ahead of the tech curve with the tech boom intensifying globally. Millennials and Gen Zs with their adaptability and openness to change are undoubtedly well-placed to rise up these challenges!