One of the key challenges of youth today? Cost of living

With an increasing number of youths that are joining the workforce annually, especially those from Gen Z, it is important to understand the unique challenges they face. What makes this more difficult is that youths nowadays are quite vastly different from their predecessors – having different belief systems, working styles, expectations, preferences, and attitudes that are largely shaped by globalisation and social media. 

The Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey shed some light on how youths define their narrative of success in a post-pandemic climate. Many youths prioritise factors such as deriving a sense of meaning from work, having a good work-life balance, development opportunities and a positive work culture. This sentiment was also corroborated in ThoughtExchange’s “Gen Z At Work” report where youths are redefining the age-old “9-5” and what work really means to them. While youths lead the push for more work-life balance, work flexibility, remote work etc, organisations might not have caught up so fast and youth risk not having a good job fit until society gradually catches up. 

Cost of living came up as a major challenge for youths in  TODAY Online’s Youth Survey, where over half of respondents indicated it as one of their top concerns. Concerns over cost of living and inflation affect youths’ financial security, where they might feel they are not able to afford homes in Singapore or even be able to retire comfortably. This stress could spill over into unhappiness about their current salary being insufficient. 

Can our youth afford their own homes in time to come?

Even though society continues to adjust to a post-pandemic world, the COVID period has lasting consequences in the workplace. Burnout was at one of its highest points during this period which spurred many workers to reassess their work and life goals. As young workers joined the ranks in the workplace, they too had to contend with the stresses that working during the pandemic brought with it. As a group that collectively aspires to have a good work-life balance, some youth had to make decisions to prioritise their mental well-being over work expectations. While the pandemic helped many employers better understand how important employees’ mental well-being is, youth might find employers still not moving fast enough, prompting them to find other jobs that are more aligned with their work-life aspirations. 

These challenges of having different work expectations, dealing with cost of living issues and feeling burnt out are not only issues that youth in Singapore face but across the globe. 

Continuing conversations with youths

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) recognises that to be able to better represent the future workforce aka our youths, it is necessary to first understand their needs and aspirations. In a message earlier this year, they shared that NTUC will be setting up a Youth Taskforce that focuses on the youth entering the workforce so that they can gain a deeper insight into their work-life needs.


NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng mentioned that the task force will engage with new job entrants and those that will enter the workforce and will engage 10,000 youths aged 18 to 25. The taskforce will focus on areas such as career, finances, and mental well-being and will share insights and recommendations on how to better support youths after the year-long engagement.

“Youth will make up a large proportion of our workforce in future. As NTUC resolves to refresh and strengthen its compact with workers, we will look at the needs of our youth and help them in their careers amid local and global challenges, so that they would have a better future.”    – NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng

Since then, Young NTUC, which is organising the dialogues with youth have sprung into action with multiple engagements. They held closed-door sessions with students from a variety of schools ranging from universities to the Institute of Technical Education – where students could share their concerns and aspirations about transiting from school to work in a safe space. Other sector-focused conversations with youths from sectors such as fintech, arts, social, hospitality, gig economy etc were organised to discuss specific concerns related to those industries.   

NTUC embarks on year-long engagement to understand work-life aspirations of Singapore’s youth

With so many on-ground conversations to deep dive into youths’ aspirations, how they plan to navigate their careers, and what support the union can offer, it will be exciting to see the recommendations that the Youth Taskforce will table to tangibly help youth in the workplace.