Singaporeans like bashing PRCs. You can’t blame them, they feel threatened, encroached and powerless. It must also be stated that any foreigner, whether be it Chinese citizens entering Singaporean land or vice versa, must take an added step to be likeable. You don’t walk into foreign lands as if it was your own home. You’re a guest, not the owner and so you should be extra nice. Well, I’m not discussing all that social fabric stuff today. I’m just putting up an example on how we can reform the less efficent sector while solving both Singaporean employment and dependency on foreign labor for ‘dirty jobs’.
The Construction Sector
My dad works in that sector. It’s a sector with massive turnovers (thankfully my dad has been consistently employed for 20+ years). It is also the sector marked as the worse efficient industry in Singapore. It takes about 3-4 years to get a new set of buildings up, we employ massive amount of foreign works to put buildings together. It’s hard labor, standing in the sun for 10 hours, moving heavy objects and the like. Worse still, its under the Singaporean weather.
Developed countries have 3x more efficient construction companies than we do. They employ less labor (though more skilled) and they get the job done faster and cleaner. Here is a company from China, and I think we have much to learn in innovating current ‘dirty jobs’ that Singaporeans shun into something that employees can be massively proud of.
This is perfect. The benefits are tremendous, so let me list them one by one.
- High dependency on skilled labor: The brains and skilled hands are found in the factory that pre produces the parts of the building. Precision engineers and skilled mechanics are in full force here. Their work here resembles what most engineering diplomas and ITE graduates do. It is the construction sector, yet clean and one that both employees and citizens can be proud of. You can expect that such jobs will see better take ups by Singaporeans. Skilled, educated Singaporeans.
- Low dependency on ‘hard labor’: Obviously you still need some quantity of low level labor to fit the buildings together. But, because they are pre constructed by the above, the amount required drastically falls. This is also how time taken drastically decreases. This will be where the bulk of foreigners will be needed, yet in small quantities.
- Working Conditions: Scrap the ‘dirty job’ tag. The bulk of the job is clean, under the roof and unexposed to the Singapore sun. This make the non tangible benefits of the job a lot more enticing to locals.
- Just in Time: I don’t expect buildings to pop up in 15 days all the time. But let’s say buildings take 4 months to complete. This includes landscaping the estate and getting roads fitted in. What does this mean? It means that we can maximize the space more effectively. Construction plots are usually ‘dead land’ for 3-4 years while construction take place. Reduce this by a factor of 12 and you can multiply the economic benefits from it. It is akin to the manufacturing just-in-time concept. With a production plant for pre construction parts, a company can be smaller, lighter and yet cover more projects. This is because they are working smarter. And that is how you become efficient.
Obviously, it will be tough to start out. Supply chains are not in place, this type of firm have heavy initial costs, etc. But if our construction sector is so poor, the government should push for it and inject funding to keep the pioneering firm. Also factoring the lesser time this new pioneering firm needs to complete the project, they should allot the firm a bigger share of projects. In time, this firm will become independent and is very likely to monopolize the construction sector. Many construction firms will phase out but that is a painful step that needs to happen. Inefficient firms should and must cease to exist.
Execution – A New Working Mentality
Innovating is always about working smarter, faster and better. This is a clear cut example of how we can take the less favored sectors forward solving multiple issues at one go. It is certain that we cannot carbon copy this entire example but we can adapt it to local conditions. The firm that moves the quickest in creating and executing new ways of doing things (such as constructing a building) will render competitors irrelevant. And, it has been shown to be possible even in sectors we never bothered to try innovating on.
So, in the tune of the education series of posts I’ve been writing, let’s take another look at our inefficient industries. Innovate on both jobs and education because we cannot see one without the other. There are many ways to solve the issues our nation is facing if one bothers to spend a little time thinking and innovating; and not trying to do things over and over again just to gain a slight increase in efficiency via learning by doing. It is time for radical innovations to be looked into at this stage of our nation’s development.