The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Employee relations, Singaporean style.

Like every country, Singapore has employment laws, however, are they enforced? Do they have meaning beyond the books in which they are recorded?

I am privy to a recent conversation between an employee of a Singaporean company and her boss, who is a Permanent Resident of Singapore from mainland China.

The employee was a Caucasian woman of mature years, but still alert, attentive and diligent at her work. She was concerned that she hadn't been paid and it was already several days past the due date.

She entered her Director's office and addressed him quietly:

"Am I getting paid today?"

Her boss didn't even bother to look up at her.

"No." His word was as empty of warmth, as his unexpressive face.

"You do know that under Singaporean employment laws, you can't pay later than the 7th of the month, for the previous month's work."

"I am not paying you until next Tuesday.", he said, again, not bothering to look up from whatever preoccupied him on his desk. His voice had become rather harsh and irritated.

"That's illegal.", she said, surprised at his tack.

"I am not paying you. Now, if you don't like it, you can resign!" This time he did look at her, and his voice was filled with undisguised anger.

She was stunned. She walked out in silence.

The next day, she resigned.

Now, I wonder how frequently scenes like this play out across Singapore? My network of contacts is limited, so I only get to hear a few of Singapore's stories. That I should hear one such story, therefore, indicates that there may be many others.

Singapore is a land renowned for its stringent laws...but how stringently are those laws enforced which make a difference to the quality of life and working life of its residents? Certainly, this particular employer did not pay attention to the employment laws of the land. Nor did he respect his workers, in even the most basic fashion.

How common is such behaviour? Do you know of similar cases? Please let me know in the comments.


(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:13 PM 


Blogger Miao said...

Singapore's employment laws are highly employer-centric in my opinion. There is no rule stipulating the minimum wage, maximum working hours, and other employee benefits. I've once read an article published on, regarding the MOM in collusion with a local employer to send his workers from mainland China back to their country without paying them. You can find the said article in Yawning Bread's December archives. An Australian journalist also criticised Singapore's employment laws (among other things) in one of his articles - you can view it here:

Anyway, if I were that Caucasian lady, I'd quit only after getting my pay. And I'd also inform MOM regarding the matter, in the hope that the ministry would take action against my unreasonable employer.

1:01 AM  
Blogger Miao said...

Singapore's employment laws are highly employer-centric in my opinion. There is no rule stipulating minimum wages, maximum working hours, and other rights and privileges that employees ought to enjoy. has published several articles on a case in which MOM is apparently in collusion with a local employer to send his workers from mainland China back to their home country without paying them - you can find those articles in the website's December archives. An Australian journalist named Angus Grigg has also written an article criticising Singapore's employment laws (among other things), and it is re-posted here: It is also not uncommon to read about foreign workers' misfortunes in Singapore - it really makes one very angry at the government's lack of responsibility and inhumane policies.

Singapore is a place where people are viewed as capital and not humans. It is best when workers are exploited, because it means squeezing the most out of your capital.

Anyway, if I were that Caucasian lady, I'd quit only after I receive my pay. I'd also mention it to MOM, in the hope that the ministry would do something about it. I suspect that she was probably deterred by all the red tape though. We all know how bureaucrats are in Singapore - they are here to frustrate you and to hinder you - not to help you.

1:10 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I think she got her pay, Miao, was just very much later than is allowed by law.

You are right. Here, the employer is king...and the employee is a peasant of a kind.

No doubt this is all part of what makes Singapore a "first world" country.

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Be the employer, not the employee. If you cant beat them, join them!

-Singapore was recently ranked as the top or one of the top in terms of labour mobility because of our pathetic unions and ability of management to fire workers much more easily than other countries.

I guess it's all about balance. You don't want to be held hostage by unions, which often demand benefits which leads to jobs cuts and then demands to protect jobs- when the benefits are clearly over the top for the company to even stay. But neither should employees be without basic rights, as in the case brought up by Miao.

While our system has served as well during our early years in bringing in new MNCs, and hence jobs, now is the time for change. For this system has to be tweaked in favour of the employees.
I do not suggest taking the road that most western countries take, which is the other extreme of Singapore's case. But neither should we leave the system as it is.

Any thoughts on what reforms should be made, without compromising Singapore's draw of FDI?

9:17 AM  
Anonymous Wang said...


Would suggest that your friend lodges a report to both MOM and REACH and the MP.
Why employers get away is very simple, many people like to complain but refuse to lodge reports or make written statements.
Unfortunately bureacracy anyway in the world runs on paper in quadriplicate.


6:03 PM  

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