13 September 2006

One Chap's Story

Do Singaporean men really decide to leave Singapore for good, because of NS? See for yourself.
UPDATE: The link is broken; the post has been removed; but the chap in question, TakChek, explains why, in the Comment section below.


Anonymous said...

I have always enjoyed what Mr Wang writes, especially pieces related to the Men-In-White and some of the policies our esteemed leaders have - my exact sentiments more often than not ;)

However, I am somewhat disturbed by the comments by others on NS. I guess I am one of the few who actually enjoyed my NSF days and still enjoy my ICTs to some extent (although I do complain at times.. who doesn't?). ICTs are actually a welcome break from my work! Less stressful in fact.. or at least the stress lasts only a few nights. :)

Comments like what enemies does Singapore have is really disturbing to me. It shows how much some people understand about what NS is and what is the situation that we are in (and this is not just related to terrorism in general). NS is a necessary "evil" to me, if it can be called an "evil" in the 1st place.

I believe your NS experience is how you want it to be - you can be very negative and make your life miserable, OR you can be more positive and treat it as rite of passage into adulthood.

About that 2.5 years lost (I belong to that era... and I wore steel helmet in my BMT :P )... Is it really time lost? While I agree that for those who are talented and are accepted into prestigious schools, they should be given the chance. BUT to blame that NS hindered their career is something which I cannot agree completely - What about those who are successful in their career and have served? How do you explain that? My professor in uni (a local one) was a hippie in the 70s, served in the British army, travelled around US and then went back to study and became who he is now - Did all his other experiences hindered him? I don't think so.

Increasing pay to NSF is a good gesture, but it will not "solve" the problem, if it is a problem to begin with. Your career is how you craft it, although having an element of luck and connections help.

Anonymous said...

May I be so bold as to venture another question to all?

Why should loyalty to country/nation immediately grant loyalty to SAF by default?
I'm sure there're far more ways we can meaningfully serve the nation, in our own areas of expertise or knowledge, rather than make everyone into a grunt & laborer

Anonymous said...


"I believe your NS experience is how you want it to be - you can be very negative and make your life miserable, OR you can be more positive and treat it as rite of passage into adulthood."

you're a positive guy but your statement implies that reality is all a state of mind.

I had a very positive attitude - opted for the toughest unit available, became an recce officer etc but what does it all mean at the end. Nothing - because its really pointless. As I get older and smarter it's still pointless.

Do you really believe our neighbors dont invade us because we have a bigger army?

If you consider moving flower pots a rite into adulthood, then I recommend gardening.

Anonymous said...

anon above is right - I think we all, especially singaporeans living in the singapore reality, need to challenge established assumptions.

le radical galoisien said...

If we had our own US Const. Second Amendment, we could form our own militia with the right to bear arms, and serve our country that way, just like each state tends to have its own militia.

But I guess not.

I'm a strong supporter of the Second Amendment mind you.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised bloggers here can't spot that the comparisons about their NS experiences come from different eras in Singapore's young history and that something about the social fabric and compact of Singapore has fundamentally changed, so much so that serving NS now does not have the noble calling it once did.

The 'old-timers', despite being 'tekaned' by Israeli instructors, fed the famous SAF dog biscuits, starching No 3 uniforms, correlated their NS with defending a young Singapore just out of independence.

And it was something worth defending. Jobs were aplenty in the 80s, there were less competition from FTs for jobs, careers for males still progressed despite a 2 year lacuna serving NS. We had Malaysian PRs who didn't do NS but it wasn't really an issue because the 'foreigner' element isn't that obvious in Singapore society at that time (by the way, I did my NS in the 80s).

But when we come to the late 90s, things have drastically changed and not always for the better from the viewpoint of Singaporeans. Job security is gone (or rather the government can't do anything about it), the work environment is much more competitive knowing that your job (except the politicians' that is) can be taken over anytime by an FT. 2 years in NS is like an eternity away from the mercurial job marketplace where your place is often snapped up by obligations-free FTs.

In brief, Singapore is not seen by Gen X and Gen Y as their home anymore, and if it's not their home, why do NS when FTs can enjoy the same benefits without the obligations. At the same time, despite 'hygiene' factors like better boots and cookhouse food, reservist obligations have increased through the years, what with 40 day ICTs, twice yearly IPPTs, RTs, mobilisations. All things that 1st generation FTs don't need to concern themselves with. (I should know, it's hard doing a business presentation when your IPPT is tomorrow and you see your FT colleague grinning at you.)

But there's another aspect, and that's when you've finished your 13 year cycle, you don't think it's that bad after all because always on hindsight, everything looks good. I'm lao jiao now you boast.

The most disillusioned group are those Singaporeans in in their 20s and 30s, who have served NS and experienced the realities of the Singapore job market and this group will grow

Anonymous said...

good post anon

Anonymous said...

Actually what I am against is the simplistic view that one's career is hindered just because of that 2.5 years in NS. There are many many other factors and it should not be tied just to NS.

My career is not hindered by my 2.5 years as far as I can see. And that 2.5 years provided me with an opportunity to think about what I want and then changing to a faculty that I did not consider when i first applied.

Will I do better, climb faster and higher without NS? Perhaps, but I don't know. Nobody does.


pointless or not depends on what you look for and your expectation... and I guess not to mention the unit you are in i supposed :) Some will feel that they have done a lot in the NSF days while others may feel otherwise just because of the vocation they are in. So it's not a simple matter of removing NS but about how we fit the individuals. But Singapore Inc. being Singapore Inc. is just a large corporation with no regards to the individuals... we are an engineered bunch I agree. But that doesn't mean I agree that something like NS should be taken out completely. Like what Mr Wang said.. it's about how we make the experience more worthwhile.

And no, I don't believe we are not invaded by another country just because we have a bigger army (do we?). But if we are, at least some of us know how to cock our m16 and shoot back if we choose to stay.

And I am really not a lao peng... just someone who needs to clock 2 more high before I go MR loh! :)

Anonymous said...

While many unique factors shape and determine an individual's career progress, to ignore the cost of NS to a Singaporean male's career is to not face the reality of competition at work in 21st century Singapore.

E.g. Heard of FT boss commenting/complaining to avoid recruiting local men? Reason given: Bcos u never know when they get called for ICT at inconvenient times of project and ICT can only be postphoned x number of times.

Btw, the above e.g. is not created from thin air... I had the "privilege" to hear it with my own ears bcos I'm Singaporean but not male ;)

Anonymous said...

Takchek's claim is disingenuous. If one applies to an overseas university prior to enlistment, knowing that one might not get disruption from Full-Time NS, it seems petulant subsequently to complain that a completely foreseeable (or even wholly expected) outcome came to pass.

Why not apply mid-NSF, in time for ORD?

takchek said...

Decided to take it offline as I have received many trolling comments.

To comp: Yeah, you are right in a way. I was stupid enough to apply too early. *Happy?*

Anyway, do you know that tuition fees (in US schools) are (were?) increasing year by year? You know how much tuition fees (for both private and public unis) jumped in that 2.5 years I was stuck in camp? 20%. On average a 10% rise each year. 1.1^2. It's not a small sum.

So yeah, NS cost me a place in JHU (and a BIG hit financially to my family). But I was lucky enough to get accepted (later) to another uni of equal academic standing. Not also the fact of having to go back to JC to beg my teachers to write more recommendation letters.

(Alright, I agree this next point is selfishness on my part): The later you apply, the harder it is to get in, especially coming from a competitive high school. Competition with your juniors and all that.

All this in return for service to the country? Sure...

Someone else mentioned all male singaporeans are subjected to the same treatment. That I agree.

So maybe the question now should be - Is this all worth it in the present day Singapore context?

My take? No.

takchek said...

Edit: *To Comp/tarinius

Anita Noi said...

"A man dies daily, only to be reborn in the morning, bigger, better and wiser." I think my "little" brother actually gained a lot from NS. He's more confident and macho, plus he does all the housework at home now.


Anonymous said...

Just because there exist people who gained maturity through NS, does not mean:

1) people cannot gain maturity outside NS-as-it-is-now, therefore making NS-in-it-is-now an absolute necessity.
(No proof that NS-as-it-is-now made them mature, rather than general growing up)

But assuming that NS does indeed have a net positive effect on the NSer, does not mean
2) NS-as-it-is is fine and doesn't need to be rethought or improved. In fact indications are that it needs to be rethought given that NS-as-it-is is not achieving its purpose as cited in common propaganda.

Remember that for every person that gains maturity and happiness through NS, there is another that became depressed and miserable. I do not think this is solely just due to personal outlook.

Anonymous said...


We are all poorly served by a " one size fits all" approach. The entire argument is how about improving the quality of NS.


you missed the gist of my argument although I suspect we are of the same mind in terms of what needs to be done.

You speak of improving NS. Well, the question is how? There are many people in NS with meaningless jobs. How does standing in front of a gate meaningful? Or scubbing pots, clerical work and pans or washing a tank meaningful? You might want to quote me intangible skills like teamwork, leadership etc, but these can be easily learnt outside of NS as well. How one 'feels' about it has very little to do with reality.

This is a huge economic cost as well. It does translate to a large number if you think about it. If a man has a healthy 40 years career for instance. The total income he makes is reduced by the end 2 years of his career, not his beginning 2 years.

i.e., a grad gets paid 2,000SGD when he starts working, irregardless if he does NS or not. A guy with NS retires 2 1/2 years later than the guy without in order to make the same amount of gross income, assuming they both aim to retire at the same age.

Hence paying NSmen with 2 1/2 years of experience the equivalent of his counterpart who hasnt attended NS is unfair because NS does not translate into relevant working experience.

All male environments might sounds macho but it does not help much in developing 'softer' social skills.

Whispers from the heart said...

Haha, so funny...

doing housework is a sign of maturity!?

Should get him married instead. Can achieve the same result and can start having precious babies immediately.

Can I suggest that those men who opt to start families young be exempted from NS?

Afterall, having babies is also a national duty?

Anonymous said...

I find all this complaining about NS funny. I wonder if it's mainly complaints by people who haven't yet done their NS and wish that they can get out of it? I personally have no gripes with my national service days in the past.

NS was like a government-sanctioned holiday for 2.5 years. It is an official reason for guys to zho bo lan (do absolutely nothing) and be freed of economic obligations for the same period. During the period we get paid enough to survive very well, considering that most time is spent in the camp with free food and lodging. At the end of it guys get a bonus increment to starting pay to catch up with the ladies by mere dint of the 2.5 years of slacking. A very good deal, for getting trained to defend the nation in times of need, I'd say.

Of course, I don't deny that things like honour and defending the country etc. etc. are nice-sounding labels, but to me they are fluffy ideals, good motivation for some, empty to me. I approach the issue of NS only from my simple perspective outlined above.

NS builds Character? Funny you should mention, but i think the thing commonly called LIFE, all 2.5 years of it, does exactly the same thing...

I recommend sitting back and enjoying the ride, to stop and smell the roses a little whenever one can. One shouldn't be in such a hurry to jump straight into working life, commitment and adulthood.

Damn I need another holiday.

Anonymous said...

At the end of it guys get a bonus increment to starting pay to catch up with the ladies by mere dint of the 2.5 years of slacking. A very good deal, for getting trained to defend the nation in times of need, I'd say.

Since when was this true? You must be working in some govt affliated organizations.

The ICTs are a pain the arse. If they call you up to 40 days in a year, that is like 1/9 of the year gone. And not counting in ops manning period and crap. And seriously, which boss would be happy that the employee is going back for reservice so many days of the year.

How do you expect us to be productive. If you are running your own company, can you really afford to be away from your own business for up to 40 days? My CO boasts that even though he runs his own company, he comes back willingly to serve his ICT obligations. Yuh right, I like to see the smile on his face, when he loses a 1-2 million deal because of his so called NS loyalty.

I don't mind going back for a week, but 3 weeks or more (usually for high key) is just too much.

SHIMURE said...

At the end of it guys get a bonus increment to starting pay to catch up with the ladies by mere dint of the 2.5 years of slacking. A very good deal, for getting trained to defend the nation in times of need, I'd say

I do not agree.
Firstly From my personal experience, NS is not slacking, my 2 and half years of NS was packed with training to be a soldier and specialist, my vocation is a Guardsman and a intel specialist serving my S2 in the army. Moreover, in these 2 and a half years i went with my unit to Australia (twice), to USA for 21 days outfield exercise, to Taiwan, to Thailand and to Brunei. That was no time for break and slack. It was intense all the way and a lot of physical toil for my country. In the end of the day what did i get? a medal? a commendation? only a paper which stated the least of what i did, my specialist course and my intel training course.

Secoondly Within 2.5 years most of the ladies would either be in their 3rd semester in the universities, or they could boast 2.5 years of experience in a career. By the time i got out to work, the ladies would be a manager or a partner whereas i start my career a blank page, the bosses in the private sector do not give a damm that you have done service to the country. your pay is still the same as the newly entered FT or that of a lady.
Even Singapore airlines do not give a bonus to those who served NS. Where in the blazes did you get the idea that there is a bonus increment in the salary just because you served the nation? IS it in the government sector????