During the week of February 24, Consumer Search Group (CSG) and Ruder Finn jointly conducted a research study on the socioeconomic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. A total of 512 employees in Singapore and 525 employees in Hong Kong were surveyed. This study revealed a stark contrast in reactions towards the COVID-19 outbreak between Singapore and Hong Kong. The difference in perceived support from employers is particularly striking, with significantly more Singaporean employees being satisfied with employers’ support compared to those in Hong Kong.
In Singapore, a fraction of public and private sector companies and organisations have announced pay cuts for senior management and provided the option for employees to go on voluntary unpaid leave. However, it is largely business as usual for both the public and private sectors. The CSG-Ruder Finn study found that a majority of employees in positive perceptions towards the level of support provided by employers, with over 60 percent stating that their employers had provided them with adequate support, compared to only 38 percent of employees in Hong Kong. Only 5 percent of employees in Singapore felt that support provided by their employers was lacking, compared to 20 percent of employees in Hong Kong.
In addition, the CSG-Ruder Finn study also revealed slight differences in perception between younger and mature employees towards their employers’ level of support. While 63 percent of mature employees (aged 50 years old or above) in Singapore felt adequately supported by their employers, only 58 percent of younger employees (between ages 18 and 29) felt the same way. Nevertheless, across all age groups, more employees in Singapore perceived their employers’ support positively; in Hong Kong, only 42 percent of younger employees and 36 percent of mature employees felt adequately supported by their employers.
Simon Tye, Executive Director of CSG commented, “It is a challenging time for all, in light of this epidemic, and support from employers will contribute towards strengthening employees’ psychological resilience. Wemust work together to support each other, stay flexible and provide accurate information to give people the confidence to move forward.”
In both cities, employers provided support via a variety of measures. In Singapore, the majority of employees felt adequately supported by their employers due to the provision of hand sanitizer (63 percent), the provision of health and hygiene guidelines (57 percent), increased hygiene standards in the workplace (53 percent) and clear communication surrounding business continuity plans (52 percent). In Hong Kong, more than half perceived adequate support from their employers due to the provision of face masks (57 percent), flexible working hours (54 percent) and the flexibility of being able to work from home (51 percent).
In light of the spread of COVID-19 and its significant impact on the economy, the CSG-Ruder Finn study shows differing levels of optimism between the two cities. Only 25 percent of Singapore residents believed that the COVID-19 outbreak will have an extremely negative economic impact, compared to almost 60 percent of Hong Kong residents. In addition, less than 30 percent of Singapore residents believe that COVID-19’s economic impact will be significantly worse than that of SARS, whereas nearly half (47 percent) of Hong Kong residents had the same perception.
Regarding information about the COVID-19 outbreak, Singapore residents placed less trust in social media as a source of information (45 percent) compared to Hong Kong residents (51 percent). 55 percent of Singaporeans believe that social media is a source of misinformation.
Despite the continuous spread of the virus, both Singapore (71 percent) and Hong Kong (72 percent) residents are optimistic that this epidemic will be over by the end of Q2 of 2020.
“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,” said Elan Shou, Executive Vice President and Asia Director at Ruder Finn.