Page last updated at 14:50 GMT, Sunday, 23 November 2008

The party may be over in Singapore

By Mariko Oi
BBC Asia Business Report, Singapore

For many business people in Singapore, swinging a golf club is the perfect way to end an exhausting trading day.

Dilip Ghosh
If you find that there is a lot less jobs and not getting paid the huge bonuses, of course it's not going to be as interesting
Dilip Ghosh

This time last year, Dilip Ghosh was a currency trader who spent much of his personal time on golf courses.

He then decided on a career change - he quit the financial services industry to set up the city state's first indoor golf lounge.

"After 13-and-a-half years in banking, I was not enjoying going to work," he says.

"I then realised how quickly I got replies from my clients when I emailed them about golfing. A lot quicker than when I emailed them about currency movements."

'A sexy job'

He admits it was a big adjustment to make - not having a stable salary. But he is glad he got out when he did.

"For 20 years, a financial market has been a great job to be involved in. It pays well, it's a sexy job to have, it's interesting and exciting.

"But suddenly if you find that there is a lot less jobs and not getting paid the huge bonuses, of course it's not going to be as interesting."

In recent months, many more people have been leaving the financial industry - though not by their own choice.

It is very difficult to persuade people who have been laid off to speak publicly.

Many of them have signed a contract agreeing not to talk to the media, and others are scared to jeopardise their chances of scoring another job in the future.

Getting worse

Mark Ellwood has been working for professional recruitment firm Robert Walters in Singapore since 1999.

He says things are only getting worse.

"What we're seeing now is job cuts within the financial services industry. But it will start to then have an impact on the larger mainstream market.

"Most organisations are coming up to the budget time and they are very cost conscious, which makes them focus on head counts."

Dancers at KM8 party scene
Times may get tougher for flash party venues in Singapore

And some impact on the service industry is also inevitable. Out of the 4.6 million people who live in Singapore, almost one million are expats.

Over the last few years, many flash bars have been popping up around the city state to keep them entertained.

"I think one of the big things that will come out of this crisis is that people have been living beyond their means for a long time," says Dilip.

"People are getting upset now but for the last 20 years, we've all been prosperous and we've all had a good time. So it's time for a reality check."

For years the financial district of Singapore has been a magnet for thousands of expats seeking big bonuses and a glamorous lifestyle.

But now with job losses spreading to Asia and the city state in recession, the party could very soon be over.

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