The ASEAN youth sentiments survey commissioned every year by the World Economic Forum recently revealed an aversion to risk among Singaporean youths. Young people aged between 15 and 35 in Singapore recorded the lowest desire to engage in entrepreneurial work among their ASEAN counterparts.
For a country that ranks second among 190 economies in the ease of doing business according to latest World Bank statistics, this finding is interesting.
Singapore has long boasted a stable government, attractive corporate tax regime, and first-class infrastructure, putting it far ahead of its ASEAN counterparts in business-friendliness.
Singapore could however, face significant headwinds for the rest of 2019 given its sensitivity to the global economy. Last month, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) revised its GDP growth forecast to between 0 and 1%, down from its initial target of 1.5-2.5% growth after a soft second quarter.
Weak manufacturing, the ongoing trade war, a Chinese slump, and the risk of a no-deal Brexit, possibly contributed to a less than rosy outlook on the economy.
Moreover, Singaporean youths also showed the least interest in working abroad, whether within or outside of ASEAN.
Not surprisingly, youths in every other ASEAN nation expressed a strong desire to work overseas especially in Singapore given proximity of geography, culture, and language, in addition to a strong currency. An important hub for multinationals in Asia, this nation-state remains a strategic talent magnet for the region.
The constant influx of talent from the ASEAN bloc to Singapore could spell growing competition among residents, local and foreign, for employment opportunities in Singapore.
The need to compete with regional talent for job opportunities points once again to the more pessimistic and risk-averse stance youths in Singapore are adopting versus their ASEAN peers. Most in fact prefer safer bets such as working for local or foreign multinationals as opposed to working for themselves.
On the other end of the spectrum, Indonesia reported the highest interest levels in entrepreneurship, with 35.6% of its youth population keen to start their own business in the near future.
Low educational attainment, buoyed by an increasingly popular gig economy, inspired by the emergence of home-grown unicorns, could have contributed to an aspiration among youths in Indonesia for starting and owning a business.
The survey also reported that while 7% of ASEAN youths work currently in the tech sector, there is growing interest as 16% aspire to join the start-up world in the future. In the face of ongoing trade tensions, the tech sector is relatively immune to shocks.
ASEAN remains a region ripe for technological disruption given its relatively young population (61% of total population), vast opportunities for enhanced productivity, and access to massive consumer markets.