SUSS and Great Eastern unveil study to understand youth behaviour, attitudes and perceptions

Titled “Youth in the Digital Space”, the study uncovered their views on topics such as financial planning/goals, education and employment, and the impact of digital communications on youth behaviour, personal beliefs and principles.

Left to right: Dr Grace Chee, Senior Lecturer, S R Nathan School of Human Development, SUSS; Mr Nicholas Lee, Head of the Centre for Design, Insights and Innovation, Great Eastern; and Associate Professor Randolph Tan, Director of SUSS Centre for Applied Research (CFAR)

Singapore, June 14, 2022 – The Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) collaborated with Great Eastern to conduct a study on the influence of social media and technology on the behaviour and perceptions of Singapore youths. Titled “Youth in the Digital Space”, the study uncovered their views on topics such as financial planning/goals, education and employment, and the impact of digital communications on youth behaviour, personal beliefs and principles.

The study which started in March 2021 and ended in October 2021, surveyed 2,500 Gen Z Singaporeans aged between 16 and 25 years old -- the first generation who grew up in the digital age.

Findings include the following key points from youth across varying backgrounds:

  1. Youths feel that they lack control over their circumstances in their journey towards achieving their life goals, with financial stability as a key concern and priority over getting married and starting a family. While most respondents want to get married (90%) and have children (75%), many of them have cited financial stability and having to meet the right person as the “pre-requisites” to marriage and starting a family. These factors highlight the challenges faced that are not necessarily within their control.
  2. Youths rank having a job with purpose as the most important factor influencing their choice of career. Nearly 40% of respondents have ranked having meaningful work as the top factor influencing their choice of job.
  3. Youths recognise and tap on opportunities offered by technology, with more involvement in investments and aspiring to start their own businesses at an earlier age. One out of five respondents below 20 years old is looking at starting up a business. Four in 10 respondents have made some form of financial investment. These processes have been simplified due to digitalisation and the convenience of social media.

The survey respondents included youths from different stages of their lives ranging from those who have just completed their ‘O’ levels, to those serving their National Service and starting their first jobs. This allowed for a comparison of behaviours and perceptions across different cohorts and for the researchers to observe the changing patterns of behaviour and habits due to their age and life experiences.

Most of the respondents see the importance of receiving a good education, getting a job with a purpose that pays well, starting a family and building a successful career. However, many respondents pointed out some of their pre-requisites to these goals such as attaining financial stability and securing a Build-To-Order flat before marriage. These findings depict the challenges that the younger generation faces in achieving some of these goals, things that might not be within their control.

Dr Grace Chee, Senior Lecturer, S R Nathan School of Human Development, SUSS, said, “The earlier study helped us to understand the educational and career aspirations of the youths as well as their personal goals related to marriage and starting a family. For instance, we found that the youths value education and its ability to help them secure better career prospects. Most of them were keen to get married and to start their own family. The current survey verified these earlier findings.

We gained new perspectives through our collaboration with Great Eastern and extended our research coverage to examine the financial habits and goals of youths. This study enabled us to see the challenges they faced and their plans to overcome them. Since the study was conducted during the pandemic, we also observed whether the pandemic has made the attainment of their goals more challenging.”

From the SUSS perspective, it is hoped that understanding the mindsets and challenges of Gen Z will help shine the spotlight on how others can empower youths to cope with the challenges they face at different life stages.

Nicholas Lee, Head of the Centre for Design, Insights and Innovation, Great Eastern, said, “We see the importance of understanding the mindsets and challenges of this new generation. As our youth progress in their adulting journey, we want to be that credible Life partner to help them navigate the financial complexities in the world ahead and be their go-to brand as they journey through their different life stages.

With the SUSS partnership, we were able to take a deeper dive into their behaviours, discover new insights into the financial habits and goals of our youth, and how they want to secure financial freedom for themselves. Together with our own ongoing consumer research, these insights will ultimately help us develop more innovative products and services that can better meet the needs of the next generation, and make their experience with Great Eastern more meaningful.”

Great Eastern started its Centre for Design, Insights and Innovation in 2020 to harness customer insights and data analytics to add greater value to the design of its products, services and customer journeys.

The findings were further categorised into the four areas below:

1. Education and employment

a. Educational aspirations

The majority of Singaporean youths believe it is necessary to attain a degree for better employment prospects. This reveals their traditional beliefs with regards to education.

b. Career expectations and motivations

Most ranked having a meaningful job as the most important factor affecting their choice of career. Apart from salary, they prioritised the nature of their work and having an environment that is supportive of their development.

2. Digital communication and youth behaviour

a. Digital behaviour and usage

The majority of respondents are comfortable using technology for commercial and communication purposes. Most of them enjoy building close relationships with the people they have met through virtual platforms.

They are selective about the platforms used to interact with different social groups such as family, friends and schoolmates or colleagues.

b. Cybersecurity and risk

Seven in 10 respondents are confident in their ability to identify scams. Half the respondents are fine with sharing personal information with people they meet online. They would also have no qualms sharing their passwords.

c. Gender differences in cyber-bullying

Six in 10 have experienced negative online behaviour, mainly in the form of negative comments and online harassment. Males are more at risk of encountering such negative behaviour, but females tend to be more reactive towards it.

3. Financial plans and goals

a. Financial habits

More than one in four indicated that their monthly incomes or allowances were insufficient to meet their daily needs. Most of them spend the bulk of their money on electronic gadgets, clothes, food, and skincare products.

b. Financial goals

One-fifth of the respondents between the ages of 16 and 19 have indicated their interest to start a business before the age of 25.

c. Perception of financial risk

Four in 10 respondents have started investing and a significant proportion of 16 to 19-year-olds are involved in trading cryptocurrencies, reflecting a high-risk appetite.

4. Personal beliefs and principles

a. Attitudes towards marriage and starting a family

The majority target to get married and purchase their first house before the age of 30. About 70% of respondents wish to have children with the majority citing the ideal age of 30 to 34. Many cited financial stability as an important pre-requisite before getting married and starting a family.

b. Attitudes towards COVID-19

A large proportion are undaunted by the challenges due to COVID-19. Most are still positive about acquiring their desired jobs and furthering their careers. However, respondents from the NITEC/Higher NITEC route show less optimism in terms of supporting themselves financially during the economic downturn brought about by COVID-19.

The research team is led by Associate Professor Randolph Tan, Director of SUSS Centre for Applied Research (CFAR) and comprised Dr Grace Chee (Senior Lecturer, Social Work Programme, SUSS), Ms Shaw Wen Hui (CFAR executive), Mr Alexander Tan (CFAR Research Assistant), and Mr Jonathan Soh (CFAR Research Assistant). They drew out a number of similarities in the results when comparing them to an earlier surveyconducted on 19-year-olds in 2019.

The team plans to further the study on youths to potentially observe the changing mindsets and attitudes of youths at different time frames. They also intend to conduct similar research outside Singapore to understand the different issues that youths may be facing in other countries and what could be the possible reasons behind these.  

For more details on the key findings, please click

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About the Singapore University of Social Sciences
SUSS is a university with a rich heritage in inspiring lifelong education, and transforming society through applied social sciences. We develop students and alumni to be work-ready and work-adaptive, aspiring to reach their full potential, through our 3H’s education philosophy – ‘Head’ for professional competency with applied knowledge, ‘Heart’ for social awareness to meet the needs of the society, and ‘Habit’ for passion towards lifelong learning.

We offer over 80 undergraduate and graduate programmes, available in full- and part-time study modes, which are flexible, modular and inter-disciplinary, catering to both fresh school leavers and adult learners. SUSS also offers a broad range of continuing education and training modular courses for the professional skills upgrading of Singapore’s workforce.

Our programmes and courses are offered by our five schools:

  • S R Nathan School of Human Development
  • School of Business
  • School of Humanities and Behavioural Sciences
  • School of Law
  • School of Science and Technology

To date, over 42,000 graduates have experienced our unique brand of education, and each year, about 17,000 students are pursuing their full- and part-time studies with us.

The Institute for Adult Learning (IAL), as part of SUSS, leads in the field of research on adult and workplace learning and training of adult educators to build capabilities of the training and adult education sector in Singapore and beyond.

For more information on SUSS, please visit

About Great Eastern

Founded in 1908, Great Eastern is a well-established market leader and trusted brand in Singapore and Malaysia. With over S$100 billion in assets and more than 10 million policyholders, including 7.5 million from government schemes, it provides insurance solutions to customers through three successful distribution channels – a tied agency force, bancassurance, and financial advisory firm Great Eastern Financial Advisers. The Group also operates in Indonesia and Brunei and has representative offices in China and Myanmar.

The Great Eastern Life Assurance Company Limited and Great Eastern General Limited have been assigned the financial strength and counterparty credit ratings of "AA-" by Standard and Poor's since 2010, one of the highest among Asian life insurance companies. Great Eastern's asset management subsidiary, Lion Global Investors Limited, is one of the largest private sector asset management companies in Southeast Asia.

Great Eastern is a subsidiary of OCBC Bank, the longest established Singapore bank, formed in 1932. It is now the second largest financial services group in Southeast Asia by assets and one of the world’s most highly-rated banks, with an Aa1 rating from Moody’s. Recognised for its financial strength and stability, OCBC Bank is consistently ranked among the World’s Top 50 Safest Banks by Global Finance and has been named Best Managed Bank in Singapore by The Asian Banker.