Press release

16 Nov 2023 Singapore, SG

Well-being, pay and flexibility prolong workplace tensions for Singapore employees

Close to half (45%) of employees in Singapore (SEA 39%) are likely to quit their jobs in the next 12 months according to the EY 2023 Work Reimagined Survey.

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Media Relations Lead (Assurance, Tax, Strategy and Transactions, Growth Markets), Ernst & Young Solutions LLP

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Related topics Workforce
  • 45% of Singapore employees (Southeast Asia (SEA) 39%) are likely to quit their jobs in the next 12 months, with workplace flexibility and pay as top concerns
  • There is a disconnect between employee and employer expectations on likelihood to quit in times of weaker economy
  • 78% of Singapore employers (SEA 55%) are supportive of their employees coming into the office no more than once a week

Close to half (45%) of employees in Singapore (SEA 39%) are likely to quit their jobs in the next 12 months according to the EY 2023 Work Reimagined Survey; with better overall well-being programs, more competitive salary packages and greater workplace flexibility cited as top reasons for leaving. Workplace flexibility (Singapore 34%, SEA 26%), talent retention (Singapore 33%, SEA 24%) and pay (Singapore 32%, SEA 39%) are key concerns for Singapore employees.

This is according to EY 2023 Work Reimagined Survey, fourth in the series, which canvassed the views of 17,050 employees and 1,575 employers across 22 countries and 25 industry sectors globally. The survey includes 1,050 employees and 200 employers across SEA, covering Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines, as well as 250 employees and 50 employers in Singapore.

For employers in Singapore, they are focused on pay (Singapore 56%, SEA 36%), talent attraction (Singapore 38%, SEA 29%) and workplace flexibility (Singapore 34%, SEA 32%). This indicates while priority levels differ, employees and employers in Singapore are relatively aligned on what matters to them. 

The survey also finds a disconnect between employee and employer expectations in Singapore. A majority (74%) of Singapore employers (SEA 62%) believe that slower economic growth reduces employees’ likelihood to quit. However, only 59% of employees (SEA 55%) agree, leaving employers at risk of underestimating the continued fluidity of the labor market. 

Samir Bedi, EY Asean Workforce Advisory Leader, says:

“Even with the current weaker economic outlook, almost half of Singapore employees are still looking to change jobs in search of better well-being programs that fit their post-pandemic life and priorities, as well as better pay to keep up with inflation. Employers need to preserve their critical talent by co-creating the future of the organization with strategies that reflect employees’ priorities and ultimately build trust and increase retention.”

While new patterns of work have emerged as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it comes to balance of power in the workplace, respondents in Singapore view employers as still having more influence and control than employees over issues like rewards, retention and ways of working. Prior to the pandemic, 63% of respondents (SEA 55%) agreed that balance of power in the workplace was in the employers’ favor. This increased slightly to 65% in 2022 (SEA 53%), and dipped to 59% today (SEA 50%), highlighting that fewer respondents in Singapore and SEA believe employers have a greater sphere of influence in the workplace today than before the pandemic.

Preference for flexibility in work arrangement

When examining whether workplaces in Singapore experience a remote versus office stalemate, the survey found that more than three-quarter (78%) of Singapore employers (SEA 55%) are supportive of their employees adopting a fully remote work arrangement or coming to the office no more than once a week.

This is good news for knowledge workers, whose work is traditionally based primarily on using analysis or subject expertise in a professional office setting. Flexibility is now a baseline expectation, with only 13% of Singapore’s knowledge workers (SEA 8%) willing to work fully in the office. These employees are pulled toward in-office engagements that are centered around staying socially connected (Singapore 44%, SEA 39%), building and maintaining relationships (Singapore 35%, SEA 34%), and collaborating with colleagues (Singapore 31%, SEA 32%). 

Workplace amenities and space design do not move the needle when it comes to employees’ desire to head to the office. However, the survey finds that investment in high-quality real estate is positively correlated with a range of other workforce outcomes including better operational support for flexible work arrangements, productivity and retention.

Bedi says: “Singapore employers have evidently picked the lessons learned from the pandemic when it comes to redefining the future of work and transforming the office space. In supporting the shift to remote working and encouraging hybrid working arrangements, employers are also reaping the benefits of higher productivity levels. At the same time, as the office remains a place for employees to deliver workforce outcomes, employers should not ignore its role and should continue to make improvements, so that employees can still look forward to coming in, no matter the number of days.” 

Another disconnect between employee and employer perspectives is the gap between their optimism about leadership alignment on new ways of working. 94% of Singapore employers (SEA 89%) agree managers and leadership are aligned on areas like work schedule, time off and remote and hybrid work, but only 58% of employees (SEA 67%) concur.

Nevertheless, a silver lining emerges for organizations that demonstrate qualities of empathetic leadership. More than half of employees in Singapore trust and feel supported by their employers (Singapore 52%, SEA 62%), and agree they are well-informed about changes in the organization like new policies and benefits (Singapore 57%, SEA 64%). These observations signal there is a strong opportunity to bridge the divide.

Generative AI in the new era of work

While generative artificial intelligence’s (GenAI) potential is still being realized, there is growing momentum and a generally positive outlook on how the technology will impact new ways of working. Over half (56%) of employees in Singapore (SEA 64%) anticipate GenAI will improve working flexibility and 64% (SEA 71%) are currently using or planning to use GenAI within the next 12 months. Employers in Singapore and SEA mirror these sentiments, with 86% of Singapore and SEA employers believing that GenAI will enhance working flexibility, and 92% of Singapore employers and 94% of SEA employers are currently using or planning to use GenAI within the next 12 months.

However, despite both employees and employers ranking learning and skills as crucial to ensure employees thrive in new ways of working, only 12% of Singapore employers (SEA 25%) plan to provide training on GenAI-related skills.

Bedi says: “It is promising to see that more than half of both Singapore employees and employers are aware of the benefits of GenAI in the workplace. While nearly all employers are currently using or planning to use GenAI in the next year, actual implementation will be a challenge. There is still a huge mismatch when it comes to upskilling and reskilling the workforce. To drive any form of successful transformation, it is critical to keep humans at the center, otherwise technologies like GenAI will remain in proof-of-concept mode.”


Notes to editors:

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This news release has been issued by Ernst & Young Advisory Pte. Ltd., a member of the global EY organization.

About the EY 2023 Work Reimagined Survey

The survey was conducted May 2023 through July 2023 and received responses from18,625 total respondents, 17,050 employees and 1,575 employers, across 22 countries and 25 industry sectors.

The survey was conducted using a third-party panel and targeted employers with a range of 500 to 15,000 employees.