LATE-STAGE capitalism is now popularly used as a catch-all phrase to describe the absurdity and blatant inequality of modern-day capitalism. Coined by German economist Werner Sombart, it refers to monopolisation by large multi-national companies and the oligarchies that run them.
And it doesn’t look like it’s stopping there.
“Capitalism has defeated communism. It is now well on its way to defeating democracy,” penned author David Korten in his book When Corporations Rule The World (1995).
And while many of these issues relating to late-stage capitalism are referring to economies and politics of the West (mainly the US), slivers of it exist in Singapore, seen especially in the perspective of young people, newly graduated from university or polytechnic.
Many large multi-national companies want dedicated, experienced people working for them. But they often require actual (and usually multiple years) work experience (distinct from internships), which the younger generation are unlikely to have, seeing as they probably have just graduated or are in school.
The Singapore government’s recent Resilience Budget has set aside $100 million to fund a traineeship scheme during the COVID-19 pandemic. While this scheme provides allowances ranging from $1,100 to $2,500 depending on the qualification of the trainee, it lasts for 12 months.
While some may argue that is enough time to assess the value of the trainee as a member of the staff, it also poses a challenge for smaller businesses with tighter cashflow situations.
Taking on a full-time employee is a commitment that many companies may not be able to undertake, so they change the status of the trainee to that of an intern. Thus, smaller businesses without the resources to hire and support the fresh graduates or those without the specific skill required, will favour those already with a lot of experience and knowledge in the field.
This was one of the issues raised in the regular Wed Web Chat series Where Are The Jobs?
Coping With Change
The COVID-19 situation has shone a harsh light on the mutable nature of our economy and its potential effect on our future. Even before the pandemic, the sea changes rocking industry and society were evident.
Many jobs that existed 10 years ago do not exist now (switchboard operators and elevator attendants), and many jobs now may not exist in a decade (travel agents, mailmen, traditional farmers, taxi drivers).
It doesn’t take much to see this change; jobs in fintech, social media or online shopping did not surface until only a few years ago.
What this means is that those entering the job market are expected to have a variety of skills at our disposal; become a jack-of-all-trades, so when the landscape shifts, as it inevitably will, employees are better equipped to switch hats and fit into a new role or industry.
In addition to being skilled in a variety of fields, companies expect us to have deep knowledge and experience in at least one field. We are expected to be extremely dedicated and ambitious and focus all of our energy to excel at a particular job, but also be ready to jump ship and evolve as the trends and economies change.
It feels like an impossible matrix we find ourselves in.
There is a dire need for companies and the leadership in the respective sectors to change the way they look at new applicants. Degrees and grades may not be as important as they are now; the transferable skills and willingness to learn may perhaps be more indicative of talent or suitability.
To really put things in perspective, with the technological developments like artificial intelligence, the McKinsey Global institute estimates more than half of the jobs in the biggest economies in Southeast Asia would be affected by AI; either demanding a higher skill level to engage with technology, or far fewer people on the work floor to accomplish the same tasks
These past few months have already accelerated behaviour change this decade, and propelled us rapidly into what would have taken place in the future. The era of the digital native has well and truly blossomed. While many have been dragged along kicking and screaming, they are nevertheless wired into the network.
As someone who has yet to enter the workforce, I view this with a mix of both optimism and pessimism. While I am excited about how technology and advances in AI may be able to phase out menial tedious jobs so people can work and focus on what they are passionate about, the working culture and society would also have to change to accommodate this.
It is also imperative that employers and HR practitioners guide the young and less experienced who will be in the workforce in the near future.
And the government should also align its unarticulated vision to embrace the potential of youth as a platform to embrace and tackle the change that is coming.
Maxine Avasadanond is a University College of London law student.
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