Cheaper-Better-Faster: Jobs, Stress & Understanding the Eco-System

I have not since, written such a serious post. Let me start by saying that this is not aimed at any one company or individual, it is more of a collective mindset that everyone approaches consumption with.

However, after watching the BBC Panorama Amazon Documentary recently, I had some thoughts regarding corporate operational systems, and business administration in today’s tech intensive world. You can view the original video here.

The aim of most operational systems would be to achieve maximum efficiency & optimal solutions, however, people often forget that the “human” components of any chain have psychological and morale aspects of their selves.

Yes, business administration and operations has never been more traceable and enforceable, due to technological advances today, employees can be pushed every single step of the way to hit their targets. Businesses can better cater to customers, with lower costs and larger output and higher profits all the way round.

Most businesses complain that customers are getting more and more demanding, wanting cheaper-better-faster products and services. Although, why is that?

It is also easy for some suited executive to look through data and say, this is too slow, let’s put a tighter time limit on this process and ensure compliance by all workers, enforce disciplinary action and sack those who cannot comply.

But, I feel, if we take a step back out to look at the full picture, we’d find that this is a situation that may draw some similarities to the wage-price spiral.

Yes, I know that it’s an open economy and I cannot look at things in such a closed loop / controlled environment method.

However, when you consider Business-to-Consumer, often, your consumer population are employees of a business, small business owners, freelance workers, etc. However, a large portion of individuals still make up the employee slice of the pie.

This is the disconnect I see, why as a consumer, one would be so keen on cheaper-better-faster services, whereas as an employee, the less work the better yeah mate? I mean the obvious answer is everyone is lazy and greedy, which as a human being i’d have to agree with.

This brings me to the main point; are we as consumers and customers too focused on the business end of things? Cheaper – Better – Faster are the three main aims of any business, and often only 2 / 3 can be achieved without actual slavery or full automisation. If you want it cheap and fast it won’t be good, want it good and fast it won’t be cheap, and want it cheap and good, it’ll take awhile!

Slavery, yes as i know was abolished ages ago, however, even on wages, there may be working conditions that are down right unethical. As companies aim to achieve cheaper-better-faster, all 3 aspects of them, workers will be driven further and further towards being treated like slaves whether they work in an office or on an assembly line, although as it often goes, the ones to be hit hardest are the ones at the bottom of the pyramid.

People in the developed world often campaign for animal rights, “ethical” products and services, but they often forget that in both developed and developing worlds, there are unethical practices even towards employees. Sometimes, as consumers and customers we need to appreciate someone else’s work, be it the postal / courier guy, the warehouse sorter, etc., and understand the ease and difficulties of another individuals job. It seems that technology has truly put a barrier between people where they start to see other individuals as a part of a large, well oiled machine.

There is no need to be understanding or caring for a machine is there? Just fix it when it’s broken, swap out a part and throw the old useless part away. One day, if you are ever the part being swapped out, you would understand what I mean.

I hope that more people realize this fact, and as a customer and consumer on one end, worker, supervisor, boss, manager, employee / employer on the other end, practice more understanding and appreciation of each others jobs and industry. Always remember, no one is infallible, everyone makes mistakes, everyone has bad days, and yes, we do need to keep some minimum standards, however, we need to account for human factors as well.


Words: Singapore’s 90% Subsidization on Drivers’ Licenses Costs

Driving as a vocation in Singapore isn’t a very big thing among Singaporeans. So, as usual it is outsourced to foreigners. However, the recent influx of foreigners have caused many problems on the road as well as other public spheres. Mainly the immigrant drivers are causing accidents due to their devil-may-care style of driving. It is not a pretty sight and my personal encounters with foreign lorry drivers have not been all that great as well.

Our government has always been good with subtlety, and hence, instead of banning foreign license holders, they decided to play the good cop strategy and get more locals to drive. How do they go about doing it? The government coping with this problem; recently, the government has decided to waiver 90% of the costs of a drivers license, for the lower income bracket. So, instead of spending about SGD2000, which is pretty normal, the participants would only have to pay about SGD200, which is about 10 times less, or a 90% discount.

There are a few conditions for this measure though:

1) You have to have a salary of >SGD1700 per month or a Household Per capita of >SGD1400 or you are unemployed

2) You have to be a SINGAPOREAN or a PR <= YEAH BITCHES SUBTLE

3) NTUC will assign you to jobs after you get your license

Check out the Straits Times article below.

So now, let me tell you how this strategy would not work. By encouraging locals to drive, and offering them a higher pay incentive, the unions are putting pressure on the companies they are supposed to be representing. If the company owner can higher an Ah Tiong (Chinaman) for almost 60% of the cost, why should they higher a local? This may lead to an excess or redundancy of vocational “drivers”. Hence, those that are laid off, would simply be a waste of tax-payers money, i.e the tax payers money pays for their license, without them contributing back to society. 

Also, out of the bulk of drivers who complete the scheme, some of them are bound to have bad work ethics, as compared to the AhTiongBu who are able to work 16 hour days without complaining. This would again, lead to those whom have bad work ethics to become unemployed and basically non-beneficial to society.

Now, lets consider that 25% of the drivers who sign up for the scheme will get laid off structurally, thats not too big an estimate right?

Now, Singstats, has stated that in 2011, there are 9.8% of households with NO WORKING PERSON in the household. 1,146,000 households in Singapore, 9.8% of that is roughly 100,000. So, those households contribute to the 10th percentile, a safe estimate of people that qualify for the programme would be somewhere within the region from 0 – 20th percentile, hence that adds up to about 200,000 households. If an average household is roughly 4 individuals,  and lets say 1 in 4 people take up the scheme. That’s 200,000 people, which will amount to a subsidy of close to 4million dollars. So now, say 20% or 1 in 4 drivers who sign up fail to productively contribute, that equals to a nice 1 million in tax dollars being wasted.

So what do you think is the right alternative?