Published on 03 Oct 2023

Service staff are humans, too: Opinion

Waiter holding a tray of drinks

In an op-ed, NTU NBS Assoc Prof Julien Cayla discusses how the service sector has never been so important to Singapore’s economy. It now employs more people than manufacturing and construction combined.

A 2022 World Bank report predicts that this trend will continue, with the service industry accounting for 75 percent of total employment by 2030.

Singapore’s international arrivals already beat forecasts in 2022, and tourism is likely to return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024. With the return of big entertainment events such as the recent Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Singapore Airshow earlier in 2023, the need for hospitality workers is greater than ever. Singapore’s growth is threatened by a recruitment and retention problem in services.

But how should services firms confront this crisis?

“Research shows that, in addition to low pay, other – less quantifiable – aspects weigh on the retention of front-line services staff: low status and a lack of recognition,” he wrote, adding: “A major challenge for the services industry is the lack of recognition – the lack of appreciation, interest or approval that others express towards services occupations.”

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