18.35 Activism - Young Activists
It All Started With a Strike…

Story by Jonathan Tan, LabourBeat

Coming from a humble background where he grew up watching his parents struggle to earn enough to support the family, 31-year-old Ronnie Ang could always identify with the toils of working Singaporeans.

His interest in how Singapore managed its labour issues might have been piqued when he studied a Labour Law module while in the United Kingdom on a National University of Singapore Student Exchange Programme, but it was the SMRT bus strike in late 2012 that deepened it. 

Sharing how that incident prompted him to find out more because labour issues in Singapore are rarely seen or experienced, he said: “The Western perspective about Singapore’s harmonious labour landscape is one of skepticism because of the fear of voicing issues. That was the issue that got me thinking about what Singapore does to ensure such positive relations.” 

 

 

Connecting with Young NTUC

Ronnie got acquainted with Young NTUC in 2016, where he shared ideas on how the unit could better engage youth. This eventually contributed to the development of the Youth Career Network, where Ronnie was one of its pioneer career guides. 

“The idea slowly morphed from a mass youth networking session where youths talk about labour issues into a mentor-mentee engagement which gives like-minded youth activists an opportunity to engage with other youths,” shared Ronnie. 

As a career guide with Young NTUC’s Youth Career Network, Ronnie regularly participates in engagement sessions where he shares his experience as a legal counsel for a statutory board. 

“I will definitely make time, not just for the Youth Career Network, but for activities such as the Young NTUC Annual Workplan and Youth Campus as well. It all goes towards wanting to find out what the Labour Movement is doing and the issues workers are experiencing on the ground,” he said. 

 

Making A Difference

Like many young workers, Ronnie’s early days as a lawyer was filled with challenges. Besides working hard to learn the ropes, he was also feeling uncertain about a future where technology might displace his work. He explained that it could be a realistic possibility for a computer programme to automate the legal research, taken over the bulk of the work done by young lawyers. 

When asked how he coped, Ronnie answered: “I basically sucked it up, and If I could take it [the stress and strain that comes with being a young lawyer learning the trade] here, I could survive anywhere else. As I progressed in my career, I started thinking about my next steps, telling myself that I cannot be lazy, making the effort to learn on the job and actively reinventing myself. I was also networking to expand my social circle and seek out other options to diversify my skills and experience.”

While Ronnie didn’t have the privilege of a mentor in his career, he wanted to pay it forward as a career guide and support youths who may have been lost as he was. 

“As a career guide, I don’t expect any life changing experiences for my mentees, but I want to give them a listening ear, help them reflect more and then move on for the better. The difference I can make is in helping them reframe their perspectives.

“The Youth Career Network is where I can see the fruits of my efforts. Seeing youths grateful at the end of each session after having been able to have someone listen and understand them – this is what keeps me going. This makes me feel that it is all worth it,” said Ronnie.