My view on the book "Hard at Work: Life in Singapore" and return your tray initiative starting in Sep 2021
I had been enjoying this book Hard at Work: Life in Singapore. It is the work of Gerard Sasges, an associate professor in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. As part of a collaborative project between 2014 and 2017, almost 100 students interviewed 300 people from all walks of life. However, only 60 interview were eventually selected for the book.
I really like the book, it made me pondered about different job. I love how the interviews were transcribed and edited into a first-person stye. Whenever I read an interview, it felt like the person is talking directly to me, sharing with me, his/her thoughts, experiences, hopes and challenges. Even though the interviews had been transcribed into English, I applauded the effort to keep all the Singlish used. It makes all the interviews so close at heart. Through the dialect used and view point of world, I came to understand my parents generation and the earlier generation even more.
I do not have friends working in so many different field so this is probably the closest I can get to understanding the difficulty of a job from the perspectives of those immersed in the job themselves. It is fascinating to read how a restaurant owner is not earning much money, where the money are spent and the challengers of managing a restaurant. How a brewer need to apply for licenses and adhere to all kinds of regulations before they can sell their home-made brews.
With the news that in September, we will need to clear our own tray, I am all for it since I don't see how returning tray is a hassle. I get it that it is easier for the next diner since there will be more clean tables available.
However many others do not share my point, they thought that if they do the job of the cleaners then the cleaners will lose their job. This is addressed in the news article that the cleaners will be required to wipe and sanitise the tables.
With covid-19 situation, it also makes sense for the diners to clear up their own rubbish since it will include used tissue or bones. All these would have come in contact with saliva or sweat and should be thrown away to ensure a safer working environment for the cleaners. I feel this is a major point! This is the civic duty of everyone to ensure we practice good personal hygiene.
When I read the cleaner's interview, I am even more convinced of the new initiative.
1) Cleaning tables is only a small part of the job scope of a cleaners, they still need to load the dirty cutleries, plates and bowls to wash at the clearing station. Subsequently they need to return the clean plates and bowls to the stalls. This is an urgent duty during the lunch and dinner peak hours when every stall will need new plates and bowls.
2) It takes up time for the cleaners to roam and clean up the tables and depending on the turn over of the tables, they could be very occupied at one corner of the hawker center.
3) Many of our cleaners are old so all these action takes even more time and effort.
4) Since this job is considered hard labour and definitely not a job choice for the local. Cleaning companies have a hard time hiring locals.
5) Companies have to hire foreigners and this hiring process is made worst due to the pandemic.
6) If we cannot get enough local cleaners then we need to look at ways to reduce our need for this job role, namely to delegate the work to get the diners clean up after themselves.
There are still so many interviews that had opened up my perspectives on the multifacet Singapore that I love and lived in. I will continue to share on the interviews that had impacted me and if you love a good book, I highly recommend this!