On Thursday (5 March), global integrated communications consultancy firm Ruder Finn released a research report on the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore and Hong Kong.
The study, which is a collaboration between Ruder Finn and Consumer Search Group (CSG), analysed surveys conducted in the week of 24 February of 512 workers in Singapore and 525 workers in Hong Kong.
Based on the study, there is a strong contrast in reactions of the employees in Singapore and Hong Kong towards the Covid-19 outbreak. Specifically, Singaporean workers are more satisfied with the perceived support received from their employers compared to their Hong Kong counterparts.
A majority of workers felt positive perception towards the support level given by their companies, with over 60 per cent agreeing that adequate support was provided to them. On the other hand, the figure is only 38 per cent for Hong Kong workers. Figure 1 shows that in Singapore, only 5 per cent of workers thought that employer support was lacking, whereas the figure is 20 per cent in Hong Kong.
In Singapore, pay cuts for senior management has been announced by some public and private sector companies and organisations and voluntary unpaid leave has been made an option for workers. Despite this, the public and private sectors are still generally functioning as usual.
The study also sheds light on the minute differences in perception between younger and mature workers towards the support level given by their employers. In Singapore, 63 per cent of mature workers (aged at least 50 years old) felt that they were adequately supported by their employers whereas the figure is 58 per cent for younger workers (between ages 18 and 29).
Across all age groups, there are more workers in Singapore compared to Hong Kong who perceived their companies’ support positively. As shown in Figure 2, only 36 per cent of mature workers and 42 per cent of younger workers felt adequately supported by their employers.
“It is a challenging time for all, in light of this epidemic, and support from employers will contribute towards strengthening employees’ psychological resilience. We must work together to support each other, stay flexible and provide accurate information to give people the confidence to move forward,” Executive Director of CSG, Simon Tye remarked.
Companies in both Singapore and China adopted varied measures to provide support to their employees. In Singapore, the bulk of workers felt adequately supported by their employers because they provide clear communication surrounding business continuity plans (52%), increased hygiene standards in the workplace (53%), health and hygiene guidelines (57%), and hand sanitizer (63%).
On the other hand, In Hong Kong, more than half of workers felt they received adequate support from their employers with the flexibility of being able to work from home (51%), flexible working hours (54%), as well as the provision of face masks (57%), as shown in Figure 3.
Furthermore, there are also differing levels of optimism found between Singapore and Hong Kong with regards to the spread of Covid-19 and the economic impact. Based on Figure 4, 25 per cent of Singapore residents felt that the outbreak will negatively impact the economy whereas the figure is close to 60 per cent in Hong Kong.
Also, Figure 5 shows that less than 30 per cent of Singapore residents felt that Covid-19 impact on the economy will be substantially worse than SARS, whereas 47 per cent of Hong Kong residents felt so.
In addition to this, 45 per cent of Singapore residents placed less trust in social media as a source of information about Covid-19 in comparison the 51 per cent of residents in Hong Kong. Figure 6 shows that social media is a source of misinformation for 55 per cent of Singaporeans.
With regards to the duration of Covid-19, 71 per cent and 72 per cent of residents in Singapore and Hong Kong are optimistic that the outbreak will taper off by the end of Q2 this year, as shown in Figure 7.
“The gap in perception between employees from the two cities could mainly be attributed to the differences in approach when providing support. Employers must prioritise employees, listen to them and build bi-directional internal communications channels,” commented Elan Shou, Executive Vice President and Asia Director at Ruder Finn.