These are the discussion prompts and notes from the March 2021 book club, when we discussed David Graeber’s “Bullshit Jobs: A Theory”.
This month, in the same week that the Department of Statistics revealed that households in the bottom 10 per cent were the group hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, with their monthly total earnings from work falling by 6.1 per cent, Beyond Social Services published its “Mind the Chasm” report.
The Singaporean discourse on poverty and inequality is advancing, and while he argues that Singapore has done better than most under meritocratic systems, PhD candidate Nathan Peng Li also details both causes for hope and worry.
Stories about low-income or low-wage Singaporeans who struggle to make ends meet or receive inadequate financial assistance follow familiar patterns. First, they are documented and shared without consent. The ensuing social media conversations are a mix of outrage, scepticism, and resignation. There are concurrent attempts to identify, to verify, and to follow up with the individual. The speedier the story goes viral, the government (frequently fronted by MSF) hurries to investigate and to clarify, concluding with the assurance that assistance has been or will be extended.
Although the journal article was ostensibly focused on Singaporean perceptions of the Ethnic Integration Policy (EIP) – and how this housing policy may influence the decisions of home-owners when choosing a flat – the ST article zoomed in on the preferences of home-owners to not live close to HDB public rental blocks (ST, Mar. 22). It cited the lead researcher, Associate Professor Leong Chan-Hoong of the Singapore University of Social Sciences, who concluded: “After price and location, proximity to public rental flats would be the variable that discourages a person from buying a unit”.