Unless you happen to be a minority, you’re probably shocked at the title. You’re probably even angry at how much it differs from your own perceptions.
What is this? How are people actually happy? Am I the oddball here?
It’s based on a fact.
A study was done before they found this.
Not all studies are trustworthy, and we shall examine whether this study is worth trusting together.
First Thing First
You might have seen the headline “8 in 10 Singaporeans are happy with their work-life balance” from The Straits Times, only to realise that when you send it to your friends, the headline seemed to have changed.
You can even see that from the URL (https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/8-in-10-singaporeans-are-happy-with-their-work-life-balance-survey).
And that’s the reason why it got attention in the first place, but let’s examine the actual survey itself.
A study conducted by Michael Page
In a blog post titled “Is Singapore happy at work?“, Michael Page, a recruitment and job search agency posted results of a survey with 1,328 professionals in Singapore at all job levels.
To cut to the chase, I wanted to skip all the possible fluff in the blog post and go straight to the full report, but I am unable to find anything like that and can only see a full infographic.
Hiding us from the real research is a bad sign: if we can’t examine how they collected the data, we can’t understand what significance the data holds.
The first thing we need to understand is what is Michael Page’s agenda here? If an insurance agent tells you their FlexiSaveSilverUltraTM plan has very high % investment as a savings insurance plan and tells you that 99% of their customers are satisfied, you better take that statement with a pinch of salt.
Michael Page is a recruitment agency with the purpose of getting people to look for a job on their recruitment portal. Singapore is one of the countries they operate in, and they get money mainly from job matching.
So think about this question: Is Michael Page more likely to benefit if they can show that work-life balance isn’t an issue to someone considering working in Singapore?
Claims by survey
The infographic gives us this breakdown of survey respondents:
But we’re not able to tell where these respondents came from and how they collected them. Did they select people from their email list? Did they physically went down to Raffles Place and handed out paper surveys? The respondents you get will be different and the survey results might be different depending on how you ask them.
For one, I’d imagine people with no work-life balance to have no time to reply to such surveys in the first place.
Here are some of the results:
7 out of 10 respond to work calls and emails outside of office hours. This is placed under a section of “A delicate (work-life) balance” in the article. While it is a useful metric to understand how many people will get a question from their boss “eh, why never answer the call? client urgent leh”, it’s not a useful metric for understanding work-life balance, because there’s no indication of how that plays into work-life balance.
And considering that 84% have responsibilities that require them to do so, it’s even less of a useful metric since that’s literally part of their job.
Here’s the banger that got you to click: 8 in 10 are happy with their work-life balance. There’s really no context for this except these smiley faces, so it’s as useful as me saying that 80% of GoodyFeed employees are millionaires.
Straits Times flame from netizens
And I might have typed that above paragraph for no reason because it seems like most people thought the study wasn’t entirely accurate. These are some of the most liked comments on a Straits Time post on Facebook, which also highlighted some problems with the survey.
This one highlighted the sample size problem:
This one cited a problem with the methodology of the questionnaire:
This one stated facts to explain why it may not be true, and questioned about why ST reposted the article.
Continue to stay smart about online survey results, my fellow ‘20%’ 😉