Hard at Work

Life in Singapore

Gerard Sasges and Ng Shi Wen

Hard at Work

Gerard Sasges and Ng Shi Wen

Distributed for National University of Singapore Press

416 pages | 60 color plates | 5 1/2 x 7 1/2 | © 2019
Paper $32.00 ISBN: 9789813250505 Published November 2020 For sale in North and South America and China only
ePub $18.99 ISBN: 9789813251335 Published May 2020
For most of us, work is a basic daily fact of life. But that simple fact encompasses an incredibly wide range of experiences. Hard at Work takes readers into the day-to-day work experiences of more than fifty working people in Singapore who hold jobs that run from the ordinary to the unusual: from ice cream vendors, baristas, police officers and funeral directors to academic ghostwriters, temple flower sellers, and Thai disco girl agents.

Through first-person narratives based on detailed interviews, vividly augmented with color photographs, Hard at Work reminds us of the everyday labor that continually goes on around us, and that every job can reveal something interesting if we just look closely enough. It shows us too the ways inequalities of status and income are felt and internalized in this highly globalized society.
Review Quotes
Han Fook Kwang | The Straits Times
“Their stories provide as good a glimpse of life as it really is in Singapore: raw, unfiltered, and in flowing Singlish. There is struggle, frustration, boredom, angst, but also grit, determination, hope and gratitude.”
H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online

"It is a book of very personal stories and I found myself drawn into each vignette. It is a credit to the student interviewers and the editors that they have been able to achieve this effect again and again, especially considering that most of the accounts are just two or three pages long...The book contains no analysis per se, but its sixty stories provide a wealth of qualitative data for anyone—scholar, journalist, civil servant, or politician—who might want to tease out policy lessons, or simply understand better how Singapore works and how Singaporeans work."

Mekong Review

“The candor and colloquial tones reflect the decision of the student interviewers and editors Gerard Sasges and Ng Shi Wen to leave out commentary and, as much as possible, let the workers speak for themselves […] Hard at Work fills a vacuum in the country’s inequality debate that has been reignited in the last few years.”

Business Times of Singapore

The interviews are often warm, authentic and relatable. The best ones are even funny, entertaining and inspiring. . . . Hard at Work stands out as an impressively authentic record of the real struggles of work and life in pre-pandemic Singapore. Reading it, one feels less alone in these dark, uncertain times.”

SOJOURN: Journal of Social Issues in Southeast Asia
“The compilation by Sasges and Ng shines in its thoughtful arrangement and vibrant selection of interviews that delivers a ‘wide-ranging story of Singapore.’ . . . [T]he charm of the whole collection lies in the meticulous curation and vivid storytelling that respectfully features the authentic voices and stories of these workers.”
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