back to square one in 40 years
70% of cleaners in kopitiams were foreign workers. then came the charge of the ah pek and ah ma brigades. today 80% of cleaners are singaporeans. shall this call for a celebration? that singaporeans have fought and won back the right to work, as cleaners? 40 years ago, this batch of now ah pek and ah ma were in their 20s and 30s. they had followed the success story of singapore, through the tough years of the 60s when they were cleaners or odd job labourers, through the years of growth in the 70s when factory jobs were abundant, through the years of feeling wealthy in the 80s when the value of their hdb flats skyrocketed and some retired with a handsome cpf nesteggs. and then the golden years of the 90s when all their monies were reinvested either in bigger flats or in the stockmarket, which was followed immediately by the crash and bust years of today. these ah pek and ah ma are now as poor as they were before. and now they came marching out to start all over again, as cleaners and odd job labourers when they should be retiring and enjoying the fruits of their labour. will we see the ah sohs returning to the job market too, as maids? there were many singaporeans who worked as maids in the 50s and 60s for the british forces. will we see the uncles coming out of retirements to work as security guards or petrol pump attendances? some have already joined the cleaner's squad and as sweepers and gardeners. but with job redesign and job title changes, they could call themselves as hygiene technicians or environment inspectors or horticulturists.