Sunday, December 12, 2010

Woe betide this generation of pampered job seekers

TODAY's new job seekers have never had it so good, a friend tells me recently. She said many school leavers had been given a headstart most new job seeker in her time did not get. The friend, who owned a headhunting outfit, said she had advertised for junior executives as part of her company's expansion plan and was elated to receive an avalanche of applications.

Most of the candidates had their own transport but what amazed her was that nine out of 10 of those shortlisted not only owned cars but had paid for the vehicles as well.

It was a far cry from what she experienced two decades ago, she said. She had to use her savings to finance her first car by installment. Every month, huge portions of her pay went into servicing loans and maintenance expenses. Thankfully, she was staying with her parents who did not depend entirely on her financial contributions.

I told her she was luckier than those who started working during my time. For those who were required to have their own mode of transport, they could only afford motorcycles.

In the days when the Sunny 130Y or Toyota KE70 ruled the roads, banks were also not as generous with vehicle loans as they are now with the issuance of credit cards. Interest rates were also high.

Even if you had the down payment in hand, you still had to consider if you could afford the monthly installment - and maintenance costs - even though petrol was pretty cheap then by comparison.

Today, if you look around, you will see that most city children already have driving licences by the time they go to college. Some would have driven to school by the time they are in Fifth Form.

One girl I know has been driving to school since she was in Form Four. Her parents had given her one of those mini cars for her sixteenth birthday and she was already a pro behind the wheels before she was of legal age to apply for a driver's licence. Fortunately, she has managed to steer clear of accidents - and the traffic police.

A colleague attributes the phenomenon to kiasu city parents over-pampering their children.

Some buy their children cars by the time they are ready for college. Some put the down payment for the cars and have their children pay for the installments and other costs if the latter has found a job. Richer parents not only service the monthly loans but also pick up the tabs for the vehicle's maintenance.

Perhaps it is not so much of pampering. Families today are smaller and parents who have saved reasonably well are likely to have enough money to buy their children cars by the time they get a job.

While many parents pass their old cars to the children, I wonder how many image-conscious city kids would dare be seen driving their parents' 30-year-old jalopy these days.

With some jobs requiring you to have your own transport and public transport not being entirely reliable, there is very little choice for many.

However, for parents who buy cars for their children without having the latter work hard for their ownership, they may be contributing to their children's hardship later on.

Relieved of the responsibility of paying for the car and its maintenance, who can tell when the young and upwardly mobile will become chained to credit card debts when their parents are forced to cut the apron strings?

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