@Esther Goh@facebook Singapore is a great place to be a young, single professional - especially one who doesn't intend to settle there permanently. If your friend is working for a bank and renting a room close to the city centre, it sounds like S$1500 is the cost of her room + transport + food alone. But some people are paid $1500 a month - that's their entire salary and then they have to make contributions to their CPF account. At the lowest rungs, wages have been stagnant for many years; the Singapore government and unions recently had to negotiate to get cleaners and security guards a minimum salary...of $1000 a month. (There is no minimum wage, by the way.) Jillian - thanks for sharing. I'd push young Singaporeans to mingle a bit more with young, expatriate professionals, to make those connections and friendships. Go out! Go to parties! Do interesting things! Join a running club! Go to talks and art things and pub quizzes! I know it's not easy and it's much more comfortable to hang out with people that you've known since maybe secondary school or polytechnic. (I speak from experience: I'm Singaporean and my husband is from the US and we live in Singapore, and I've been at social gatherings where either I'm the only Singaporean - yes in Singapore - or he's the only non-Singaporean. Aiyoh.) And I know going out after work is an additional expense. But you need to take yourself out of that comfort zone in order to meet new people. New York is a good start... Other clarifications, CPF stands for Central Provident Fund, much like an individual retirement account. Your money is your own, it's a forced savings plan - basically a relatively cheap loan to the government until you're 55. And then if you don't have a certain minimum sum in your account, you're not allowed to withdraw it as a lump sum. (The minimum sum funds a small monthly pension, about a few hundred dollars.) Not all companies pay you less during your probation period. I had a six month probation at the big media company I started working for almost six years ago, but we got our full salary (with benefits once we were confirmed). Jillian is referring to public housing, built by the Housing Development Board, which 80 per cent of Singaporeans live in - it's heavily subsidised, and the restrictions are differentiated by whether you buy a flat directly from the government or from an owner who bought her flat directly from the government. Most young people (us included!) except very high-earning professionals are totally priced out of the private housing market, which is condominiums and houses. On the marriage/ housing thing: This is kind of academic and a long read, but a sociologist here has put forward the argument that even though the government says it supports families, structurally it supports only one, conventional, 'traditional' way of 'doing' family: http://www.isa-sociology.org/publ/E-symposium/E-symposium-vol-2-2-2012/EBul-Teo-Jul2012.pdf
Southeast Asian Chinese comfort food. I made this the other night and it was fantabulous - use pork belly for best results. http://distracted-student.blogspot.sg/2011/09/lor-bak-braised-pork.html (I have to confess it's easier when you live somewhere you can just roll up to the grocery store and buy a whole package of star anise.)
There's a very sad reason some private tutors (not public-school teachers!) in Asia are millionaires: enormous demand for tutoring services because of pressure to excel. As you can probably imagine, this further deepens social inequalities and educational outcomes, because some families can pay top dollar for the best tutors and others eat into their retirement savings to spend a big chunk of their income on kids' tutoring.
So that's what they do with the tax evasion money.
oh! oh! Please interview one of the journalists who has to write these things. I know a few who write for luxury publications; there's a huge cognitive disconnect, because as you know, journalists don't get paid a whole lot... but then again, this is the WSJ, which thinks single parents make $260,000 a year including deductions and investment income: http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/17/1179831/-Revealed-The-Wall-Street-Journal-Has-No-Idea-What-is-Happening-in-America