My Autonomy: Millennials in Singapore

By Andrea Ng

Following on from our previous two articles, we’ll now look at millennials in Singapore, including their culture, forces of change and what our happiness drivers mean to them.

The Culture: What Does It Mean to be Singaporean?

In Singapore, Kampong spirit is a cornerstone of society, so there is a strong sense of individuality, with family and community values also being highly regarded.

A ‘survivability’ mentality defines Singapore’s psychology and drives the country’s tenacity. They seek to defy the odds and fear losing out, so setting out to prove themselves forms a big part of the Singaporean psyche.

Singaporeans are also deeply pragmatic. However, material well-being and status is also highly valued. Singaporeans are opportunistic and highly efficient, and have come to accept a certain standard of living and quality of life. With political stability and economic growth, Singaporeans have an embedded sense of security – a safety net that allows them to explore opportunities.

Forces of Change

Post SG-50: A New Chapter Looking Ahead

As the young nation crosses its 50-year milestone, Singaporeans wait with eagerness and anticipation to see what lies ahead. The nation has marked several milestones such as a first Olympic Gold medal and a first Michelin guide descending onto the city. Post SG-50 is stirring up conversations of the Singaporean identity, and millennials are leading the talk  around what makes Singapore’s identity unique.

Economy and Unemployment Uncertainties

Singapore has proven to have a resilient and successful economy. Yet the economy is closely intertwined with its Asian neighbours and as the global economy deteriorates, Singapore must prepare to ride the storm. Unemployment rates continue to rise, and the annual unemployment rate in 2016 was the highest since 2010. The unofficial Singapore dream of 5Cs – car, condo, club, cash, and credit card – is increasingly out of reach for young Singaporeans.

Smart Nation: Envisaging A Digital Life

Singapore is racing to be the world’s first Smart Nation, an intelligent city where technology and digital are harnessed to help people lead their lives. NuTonomy’s self-driving car made headlines when it hit the road in 2016, while unmanned hot-food vending machines began serving neighbourhood estates.

 Happiness Drivers

Positive Emotions: Gaining Autonomy 

Having been brought up in a society with comfort and safety well provided, Singapore millennials are seeking autonomy – the capacity to be themselves, and to live life according to their desires. They want to make their own mark and become their own person. Having a sense of personal autonomy is a vital form of personal growth. The desire to lead an autonomous life injects a sense of self-fulfilment, inspiration, and much-desired flexibility.

Achievements: Redefining Failure and Success

Raised in an environment where ambition and competition is commonplace, Singaporean millennials are looking beyond the prescribed paths in life. They seek to redefine success and embrace transparency and failure. They are also looking to redefine the old 5Cs into something that is more meaningful to them. They understand that the road to success is not linear, and believe that hard work and sacrifices made now will pay off in the future.

Engagement: Gung-Ho for Discoveries

Singaporean millennials are looking to have an experience-driven life – they are ‘gung-ho’ (enthusiastic), and want to take risks. As one of the most well-travelled peoples in Asia, they live to find experiences that leave imprints in their lives. A study by Visa revealed that status symbols of success like a nice car or house are still desirable, but experiences and discoveries are redefining the currency of ‘status’.

Relationships: Romance Redefined

It has been teased that the ‘Singaporean way’ of proposal leads not with a ring, but with a ‘Shall we apply for a HDB flat?’ as the conversation on romance is often practical. But Singaporean millennials are taking romance into their own hands. From a proliferation of dating apps to new wedding trends such as destination weddings, millennials are redefining romance on their terms.

Meaning: Socially United

Singaporean millennials want to be part of societal change; crusaders of the local, and champions of eco and social movements – because they feel part of it. Young hawkers are stepping in to preserve local heritage, while socially-conscious start-ups are on the rise. Even if this is challenging, they see responsibility in owning and shaping their present and future, and meaning must come with action.

Health: Fit for Me

Singaporean millennials are incorporating the value placed on experiences into their outlook on health. From articles talking about Singapore’s #fitspo of the week, to new food outlets riding on the mindful indulgence trend, they are looking at multiple dimensions of health. It is about feeling healthy and looking good. They want to make full use of their time, and become the best versions of themselves.

Security: Searching for Anchor And Direction

As pragmatists, Singaporean millennials are also acutely aware of the changing world around them and the challenges this brings. Unlike Hong Kong, Singaporean millennials have enjoyed a sense of security due to stability. A study by the Manpower Group found that Singaporean millennials are among the gloomiest in the world. They are searching for a sense of direction and an anchor in their lives that will help fulfil their appetite for discovery – whilst cushioning their future facing insecurities and uncertainties.

What Does This Mean for Brands?

  1. Singaporean millennials are looking for ways to establish themselves and will look for brands which can offer new spaces, challenge the status quo and will fulfil their desire for autonomy and discovery.
  2. Brands can tap into digital lives and the desire to reach out to others, while fulfilling the need to be part of something different. Brands which are social, digital and have a platform that offers utility and connectivity will be sought after.
  3. As Singaporean millennials are searching for meaning in their existence and to be social champions, they want to hear brands tell stories that engage with this reality. They are looking for brands that step away from the official rhetoric and traditional offerings – going above and beyond to offer authenticity, realness, and honesty which tugs on the heart strings.

By Andrea Ng, Join The Dots