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The A-Zs that rocked 2021: YOLO economy

SINGAPORE – If you are a millennial who has given up your steady job to start your own business, pursue a niche hobby or simply to take a break, you have joined the YOLO (you only live once) economy.

The term was coined by The New York Times to refer to the phenomenon of overworked millennials foregoing cushy, financially secure jobs in favour of high-risk ventures.

The Pew Research Centre defines millennials as the generation born between 1981 and 1996. They have also been dubbed the “burnout generation”.

According to what Bloomberg has called the “Great Resignation”, 24 million American workers – triggered by the pandemic to rethink their priorities and upset at return-to-office mandates from their employers – quit their jobs from April to September this year.

In China, the “tang ping”, or “lying flat” movement is all about opting out of the pursuit of wealth and power – a ground-up rebellious response to the punishing work schedules of many office jobs.

In Singapore, the YOLO trend is catching on among the younger generation.

Ms Jaya Dass, managing director of Singapore and Malaysia at recruitment service provider Randstad, notes that it is not uncommon in recent years to see job-seekers here with significant gaps in their resumes, or people leaving their jobs without securing another one.

“People have all sorts of reasons. Sometimes they are burnt out. Some may need to handle issues at home, while others are simply comfortable with not being employed for a while,” she adds.

“We also see more people who want to start their own business. There’s less stigma about failed entrepreneurship now and it’s increasingly seen as part of one’s portfolio, character building and capabilities.”

The younger generation of workers tend to be on the lookout for more than just a nine-to-five job, and aim for a sense of purpose and fulfilment in their careers.

There are also alternative ways of generating income online without a salaried job – such as investing in the stock market or starting a small business and marketing it on social media.

And while Ms Dass says the Great Resignation phenomenon has not taken hold in Singapore, it might happen if employers do not successfully adapt their work culture to suit employees’ changed sensibilities during the pandemic.

“If we emerge from the pandemic and companies ask people to go back to the office, the employers who offer more flexibility and hybrid work options might be able to hold onto more people. Those that don’t evolve and adapt accordingly might see plenty of exits.”

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