Driving school

‘At 6 p.m., it feels like lunchtime’: low pay, long driving hours for Singapore’s young architect hopefuls

In his case, the lack of orientation at work was also a problem.

“I just have to make mistakes on my own, which I’m not comfortable with… My colleagues are very helpful when you ask, but everyone is too busy with their own tasks for you not to can’t just hang on to someone.”


Singapore Institute of Architects president Melvin Tan said the survey results on the number of people planning to stay long-term were ‘not hugely shocking’, based on cohort observations past, including his own.

But they were still “alarming” and allowed the institute to “figure out what we were feeling”, he said.

Already, some companies that are hiring again as projects restart are struggling to fill positions, Tan noted.

Graduates CNA spoke to said friends who had left the profession ended up in fields such as public service, the arts, UX design or interior design.

But amid Singapore’s big urban ambitions, whether greening the built environment or realizing its long-term plans, more talent will be needed to fill an increasing number of roles, Mr Tan said.

“If there’s a big drain and we can’t keep even the small percentage that we’re looking at anymore, then we’re headed down a tough road.”


Mr Tan acknowledged the challenges young graduates face, echoing their thoughts on low salaries and the lack of a fee schedule.

“If you look at the market today, the fees are unfortunately only a fraction of what they were 20 years ago.

“Anyone with a sense of economy knows that’s unsustainable because we’ve had to deal with inflation over the years. There’s no way we’re looking for lower fees, when we do so much more.

Although it cannot impose a fee schedule due to competition laws, the Singapore Institute of Architects is working on a Values ​​Articulation Framework, which lists all work and costs that architects undertake .

“(This) covers labor, rental, subscriptions, software, codes, regulations, and liability and liability costs.

“We hope to illustrate the extent of the responsibilities and commitments that architects take on in each project and the value that we bring, so that they better understand how to charge them to create a commensurate fee structure.”

It will also help developers or customers understand why the cost is right, he said.

He added that the statutory authority, the Council of Architects, is also considering “trying to have conversations on this matter”.

The institute is also working on an upcoming survey focused on the benchmarking fees companies currently charge.


Mr Tan is also pushing companies to invest in their staff, estimating that there could be around 5,000 to 6,000 architects and architectural assistants in Singapore.

While there are around S$15 billion of proposed projects each year that the industry can undertake, setting aside 1% of that would allow an investment of around S$2,500 per month in each member of staff, said he declared.

This sum can be used to provide commensurate wages or to invest in labor and skills development.

“Although we cannot make this mandatory, we hope members will come together to take this positive step for our future,” Mr. Tan said. He added that the survey made members sit up, sparking their interest on how to improve the situation.

Finally, a mentorship program has been expanded to cover young graduates entering the industry.

Young architecture graduates CNA spoke to were skeptical of the effectiveness of these initiatives, but also acknowledged the difficulty of solving the issues involved.

Jessica also suggested: “(Educating) the general public is very important…Because it defines mindsets and expectations, and also defines the status of architects.

Daniel agreed that the work deserved more recognition: “Without architects, you won’t have hospitals for doctors, officers for lawyers, factories, shopping malls, businesses.”

Regardless of the current challenges, Mr Tan from the Singapore Institute of Architects is also confident about the future of the profession.

After all, architects are “supreme optimists,” he said, explaining that it’s because “projects take so long to come to fruition that if you’re not optimistic, you’d have already given up at half way”.

“(Architecture) is here to stay. There is a lot of interest around architecture and everyone appreciates architecture.

“I think the future is bright. But it’s our responsibility to make sure we keep investing in it for its future.