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Singapore - Business and Workplace Culture

Business is normally conducted in English in Singapore, particularly British English. As many Asian countries do, Singapore has a formal business culture with quite a few rules concerning etiquette. The etiquette itself can vary between the different Chinese, Malay and Indian members. Because the Chinese form the greatest part of the population in Singapore, most of the cultural aspects of the business world are influenced by the Chinese.

Networking is an essential part of conducting business in Singapore, as is cultivating personal relationships with co-workers and potential business associates. Workshops, conferences, training events, and even luncheons are all popular networking venues in Singapore.

It is also important to show respect to elders and those in senior management since status and hierarchy are very important. Business decisions are usually reached by a consensus and in the overall scheme of things, the group’s interests are more important than the individual’s.

There are 10 holidays that are observed. These include Good Friday, Chinese New Year, New Year’s Day, Labor Day, Vesak Day, National Day, Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Raya Hajo, Deepavali, and Christmas Day. Under the Employment Act, anyone who must work on a public holiday is entitled to an extra day's salary at the basic rate of pay, in addition to the gross rate of pay for that holiday.

Regular business hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Some businesses stay open longer and open earlier, however. There are restaurants, pharmacies and clinics that are open 24 hours. Most businesses that are not in the service industry are only open 5 days per week.

Business attire is important and will depend on the occupation itself. In most cases, regular business attire includes long sleeved shirts, dark trousers, and ties for men. Women tend to wear blouses, skirts, or dressy slacks.

It is very important to be punctual. If you’re unsure of what to do in a certain situation, following the lead of the senior member can be helpful. Most greetings are met with a light handshake although you might find that not all women wish to shake hands with men. If they cross their hands in front of their chests then the protocol is to shake your head slightly in acknowledgement.

When you are addressing a Chinese individual, you should use their title which is followed by their surname. A Malay or Indian person might introduce themselves by using their first name first and then following it with their professional title.

Singaporeans like to bargain and, as such, negotiations can be quite slow. It is essential not to lose patience when working out the details of a business arrangement. When a business deal is closed, the exchanging of small gifts is appropriate. Usually, this will be done in a group setting. However, Singapore government officials may not receive gifts.

More than half of the women aged 15 and older were in the work force in 2010. In women aged 25-54, 73.8% were in the work force. Each year, the percentage of women in the work force increases. The percentage of women who are working drops slightly from the ages of 25-30 which might be accounted for by those who take time off from work to start families.

Studies have shown that female middle managers in Singapore businesses face a glass ceiling in their working environment which can restrict the promotion of female managers. It also creates a barrier in regards to the career development opportunities for women. In general, women do not have as much mentoring, networking, and organizational support in the workforce as men do.

According to a study conducted by a popular temporary agency, more than two thirds of Singaporeans complained about having experienced prejudice of some sort when applying for a job. The top reason for discrimination was age. This was followed by race, gender, and disability. There are no anti-discrimination laws or laws in place to protect employees based on gender, race, or disability in Singapore. While there are guidelines on discrimination and hiring practices, the actual compliance is left to the discretion of the employer.

In 2006, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair Employment Practices (TAFEP) was established as a joint alliance between the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF), the Singapore Business Federation (SBF), and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC).

There have been no strikes in Singapore for many years since - industrial relations are peaceful. An important component of Singapore industrial relations is ‘tripartism.’ Tripartism refers to workers (through unions), employers (through employer organizations) and the government (through the Ministry of Manpower) working together.

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