Hard at Work: Life in Singapore

But I think in the future hor, hawker centres like this will be no more already. — Tea Seller, Pg 14

Hard at Work: Life in Singapore consists of 60 interviews with people from all walks of life, capturing the mundane reality of what people do for a living — a ghostwriter who writes anonymously on behalf of his wealthy clients so they can pass or even excel academically; a Thai girl who came to Singapore to work as a disco singer so she could holiday and earn money at the same time; and a male Muslim who went against all odds to become a well-known wedding groomer in a female dominated industry.

Nearly 300 people were interviewed by National University of Singapore (NUS) students from 2014 to 2017, of which 60 were then selected to form a wide-ranging story of working life in Singapore in a visceral and unfiltered form. The transcribed interviews allow readers to understand the nature of each interviewee’s job from his or her own unique perspective as though readers are hearing it directly from them. They also draw attention to the thoughts and experiences, and hopes and disappointments, shared unabashedly in the intimate stories that unfold in the book.

I call myself a tai tai farmer, because tai tais get to do things their way, tai tai will not succumb to working hours, I do it my way, my time — own time, own target. — Farmer, Pg 58

Categorised thematically, these 60 interviews captured vignettes of the lives of workers across a wide spectrum of occupations and industries. This included conventional jobs such as police, nurse and barber, as well as the unconventional such as drag queen, pet crematorium worker and bet collector.

Hard at Work: Life in Singapore is an enlightening read. Told using a first person narrative, the stories will give readers an insight into the lives of ordinary Singapore workers in a fast-paced and globalised city, something that is glossed over in the official narratives and tourist brochures.

Because I always tell my boss I want to be an undertaker, because when you young you watch WWF, got the wrestler Undertaker and you want to chokeslam people and then put him into the coffin. — Funeral Director, Pg 163

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