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Lower-Wage Workers Want Empathy, Not Sympathy

Through the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations, Lead Administrative Executive Nur Atiqah Ismail hopes to highlight the challenges faced by lower-wage workers in the facility management sector.
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By Ian Tan Hanhonn 02 Sep 2022
Model ID: 3cff4a7a-8420-4681-8877-d383b543fc4b Sitecore Context Id: 3cff4a7a-8420-4681-8877-d383b543fc4b;

We have all come to have a certain level of expectation living here in Singapore.

We expect things to work as they should, our properties to be safe, and our surroundings clean.

But the question is, who is responsible for ensuring things are as they should be? 

Nur Afiqah Ismail, 37, a lead administrative executive working in the facilities management sector, feels that many workers working in the industry are not getting the recognition they deserve.

The mother of two recently attended an #EveryWorkerMatters Conversation where she fervidly spoke of these workers’ lack of recognition.

In an interview after the conversation, she said: “We have a lot of invisible warriors and heroes [working in facility management]. For example, during the COVID period, people highlighted the gig workers’ work and roles. But what about those workers who were also working throughout the pandemic, like the facility technicians, cleaners and security officers? I feel that they have been undervalued.”

She added: “People know when it is Teachers’ Day or Nurses Day, but the cleaners themselves don’t even know that there is a Cleaners’ Day … I feel that they don’t get the recognition they deserve.”

A Societal Problem

Atiqah feels that the problem is a societal one. On the surface, everyone acknowledges that the work these workers do is essential. Still, beyond that, the appreciation pretty much stops there.

“It is usually more talk than action,” she shared.

Over the last eight years that she has been in the sector, she has heard many complaints from her cleaners and technicians about being talked down to and disrespected at their workplace.

It could be from their employers; it could also be from members of the public.

“Just because they are not highly educated, does that mean you cannot talk to them respectfully?” she questioned.

She added that these workers are often doing the jobs that no one else would want to take up and that people need to start appreciating these workers’ contributions. 

“Employers need to take that step. As the managing agent, I cannot be the one appreciating my workers when they are based at the client’s property,” she said.

While she agreed that some employers do make an effort to appreciate their facility maintenance staff truly, she hopes to see more being done on a larger scale.

A Hopeful Outcome

Through the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversation, Atiqah hopes her concerns will be heard, and society will be more respectful and appreciative toward lower-wage essential workers, such as those employed in the facility management sector.

She said: “I hope there will be more recognition for these workers. 

“To me, every job is important, no matter how small. Sometimes, it is the small jobs that are the ones that make the big difference.” 

Find out more about the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations at