Company Behind Survey That Ranks Artists as Most ‘Non-Essential’ Responds to Hoo-Ha

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As Singapore slowly eases its way out of the weary Circuit Breaker stage, controversial issues have, once again, found their way back into the limelight.

All of these issues have been dissected and spoken of at length, and they have all attracted their own dissenters (and supporters). And while the first one has since reached a ‘universal’ conclusion, the other two have yet to be finalised.


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Or have they?

In this article, we shall focus on the second issue at hand…

And how the company behind the survey has since reacted to all the ‘hoo-ha’ surrounding it.

Brief Overview

But before I proceed, let me just bring you up to date real quick;

On 14 June, The Sunday Times – the Sunday edition of The Straits Times – published a survey that purportedly ranked the “top five non-essential jobs”: Artists, telemarketers, social media manager/public relations specialist, business consultants and human resource manager.

The survey was conducted from 5-8 June, with responses gathered from 1,000 individuals aged 16 and above with a “nationally representative sampling across age, gender and income groups”.

According to The Sunday Times, the survey wished to “capture how people’s perceptions of essential workers have changed, if at all, against the backdrop of Covid-19, and whether they would be willing to pay these workers more”.


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But Netizens weren’t having any of it.

After The Sunday Times published three articles on the survey, the Internet community took to social media to denounce the framing of the survey and expressed concerns over how the findings could degrade several occupations and deter people from joining them.

Suffice it to say; the survey was not taken well… at all.

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Company Behind Survey That Ranks Artists as Most ‘Non-Essential’ Responds to Hoo-Ha

On 15 June, consumer research firm Milieu Insight posted a lengthy statement on its website, noting the “great deal of discussion about the results” as well as “some critical response”, and clarified the methodology adopted for the poll.

According to the firm, respondents replied to the survey questions in a manner pertaining “to the definition of ‘essential workers’ that was shown at the beginning of the survey”.

The definition stated that these are workers “engaged in work deemed necessary to meet the basic needs of human survival and well-being, such as food, health, safety and cleaning”.

And while art is arguably a “basic human need” as well, they explained that circumstances may affect the order of such ‘things’.

“Some could argue that art is a basic human need, and many of us at Milieu would agree,” the firm said. “But in the context of a post-Covid-19 world, and based on the definition of essential workers provided, these are the jobs, based on a shortlist of professions, that Singaporean adults deem essential (versus) non-essential.”

The survey reportedly comprised of 19 questions in total; survey-takers were shown a list of 20 jobs and asked to pick the ones they considered ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’.

The firm, however, acknowledged that there were questions that the survey failed to cover. and “some caveats for how we interpret the results of the questions that were asked”.

It also conceded that the majority of Singaporeans would have considered such ‘non-essential’ professions to be recognised as vital to our happiness and mental well-being.

“We’re confident that, if asked, most Singaporeans would agree that artists and their work, be it a musician, painter, dancer or filmmaker, are absolutely essential to the enjoyability of our lives and our own mental health and well-being,” the firm added.

NMP Spoke Out Against Survey Results

Nominated Member of Parliament Terence Ho, who is the executive director of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra, has since conveyed his opinion on the controversial issue, via an exclusive interview with TODAY.


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“If they wanted to shine a light on the blue-collar workers like hawkers or cleaners, there are many other ways to do it,” he said.

“When you put artists together with them it doesn’t make sense. The products and the outcomes of an artists’ work compared to the other jobs are very different. How can you compare?”

Well, I guess it’s really just a matter of perspective. 

What about you? What do you think?

Tell us in the comments section! 🙂


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