Cleaner Auntie Would Rather Clean Tables Herself Than Lose Her Job


Singapore is becoming a smart nation with its self-checkouts at supermarkets, tray returning services at food courts and cashless payment services.

Personally, I prefer to minimise my interaction with other humans. That’s why I love all these technologies—self-ordering kiosks at McDonald’s, booking a car ride and ordering food through apps and online shopping.

I didn’t think much of it until I came across an article by The Straits Times—When cleaner auntie says: Leave me some work to do.

As you can tell from the headline, it is the writer’s personal account with a cleaner when she was asked not to return her tray (assuming it was one of those food courts where you have to return your tray).

As quoted in the article, “Leave it. Leave me some work to do. Leave me my job” said the cleaner auntie in Mandarin to the writer.

The writer understands where the auntie is coming from—her job as a cleaner is under threat from modern technology.

Modern Technology

Some food courts like the one at Punggol Plaza has tray return robots roaming around the area to collect used trays.

And the Cheers outlet in Nanyang Polytechnic is unmanned! There is no need for a cashier as there is a self-checkout system for cashless payments.

A food court in Choa Chu Kang, Foodtastic, even has a cleaning robot.

【本地首两家新式咖啡店开业】传统咖啡店开始步入转型时代,首两家采用多种自动化服务的新式咖啡店正式营业。这两家咖啡店分别是:淡滨尼86街第872C座的喜多福咖啡店,和蔡厝港1道第818座的FoodTastic咖啡店。点击视频看看两家新式咖啡店有什么特别之处。~记者林凤玉#958news #productivecoffeeshop

Posted by Capital 95.8FM 官方Facebook on Saturday, 20 May 2017

The cute little robot resembles Elmo from Sesame Street. Instead of teaching you the ABCs, it keeps the place sparkling clean.


When you enter Changi Airport Terminal 4—when it opens its door on 31 Oct—you will see automated cleaning robots keeping the place clean.

But, alas, that which glitters is not always gold.

With technology reducing manpower, it essentially takes away people’s job.

For some people, like the said auntie, these jobs could be their livelihood.

It really struck a chord with the writer as she doodled her encounter with the auntie.

Image: (Denise Cheong)

While the aim is to move towards becoming a smart nation, we should not forget the senior citizens. Or just anyone who just wants to make an honest living.

While there are avenues in Singapore for someone to upgrade themself such as SkillFuture—a national movement to provide Singaporeans with the opportunities to develop their fullest potential—I doubt senior citizens will be able to jumpstart their career at 60 years old.

It is safe to say, if robots take up the simple jobs, the manpower will be lesser and soon enough, these jobs will disappear.

But I believe that as much as technology has improved, it is not 100% reliable.

The simplest task of unlocking my iPhone using the Touch ID technology can fail me at times—having to manually key in my password.

It is definitely something to ponder about. Let me know what will you do the next time you dine at a food court—return the tray or leave it for the cleaner to do it.


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