Working Lives Singapore

Composite image of five people

Singapore has achieved what only a handful of countries have - joining the so-called First World from the developing world.

The city-state transformed itself from a British colonial outpost into the country with the third highest average income in the world within a matter of decades.

Singapore Direct graphic

Not only that, it has become an international financial centre attracting expatriates from across the globe. Foreign workers make up 40% of Singapore's labour market.

Exporting consumer electronics has been the driver of growth for Asia since the 1960s, including for Singapore, which has also made the most of one of its few natural advantages, a deep water sea port.

For Working Lives, the BBC's Linda Yueh has been meeting people around the island.

Wang Han, a young Singaporean design engineer, is the type of highly skilled worker that leads international companies to set up plants in such an expensive country.

She works on the innovative digital motor that powers hand dryers and vacuum cleaners for UK company Dyson. The motor is made in Singapore, but the products using it are assembled in Malaysia and sold around the world.

That international outlook and the government's promotion of skilled workers also attracts foreigners to Singapore.

Frazer Macdonald Hay came to teach young Singaporeans how to integrate design into engineering. He heads a 10-year programme between the Glasgow School of Art and Singapore's Institute of Technology.

Chris Gill was attracted by the government's promotion of the financial sector, and a safe, clean environment to bring up his young family. He is the general manager of a global insurance company's Singapore branch.

Property developer Satinder Garcha, who according to one survey is Singapore's 46th richest person, plays polo each afternoon in the middle of the city, giving him a rather enviable work-life balance.

But it's not just the rich who have a good standard of living. Office cleaner Liew Siew Giok works all day on her feet but goes home to a meal cooked by her Burmese maid. She lives with her extended family, who pay for the domestic help and her flat.

The influx of foreigners has created social tensions and the rapid growth of the financial sector has raised some concerns about the future.

However, what is clear is that Singapore has grown by being at the leading edge of know-how, giving not just the rich, but most people, a good quality of life.

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