Gen Z & Millennials

Beyond the 9-to-5: Young Southeast Asians believe that having multiple sources of income is a must

Written on:
June 27, 2023
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Just mere decades ago, it was possible for people in Southeast Asia to survive and support their families on a single income. However, as we look ahead to 2023 and the impact of high inflation triggering a global cost-of-living crisis and rising, it has become more difficult to live comfortably on just one source of income. While it is still (merely) attainable to an extent, perhaps more so for singles and small dual-income families, it is evident that the economic landscape of today has shifted, leading many to turn to multiple sources of income to live and support their families comfortably. 

We launched a regional study in March 2023 targeting GenZs and Millennials across Southeast Asia — Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, to understand their attitudes towards having multiple sources of income. The results showed that 95% of those surveyed believe that having multiple sources of income is a must. But why are so many eager to supplement their income, and how are they doing so?

Young Southeast Asians turn to multiple incomes for financial stability

While a number of participants described side hustles as being helpful for job opportunities and networking, the most common reasons for having more than one source of income were having more earnings and savings (64%), rising cost of living (62%), and job security (47%). 

These findings reveal a sobering reality: uncertainty is here to stay, and Southeast Asians are looking for a sense of security. By having more than one source of income, they are able to mitigate the risks of only working a single job — afterall, no employee is indispensable. This was shown during the Covid-19 pandemic, which ravaged the world’s economies , leaving many people unemployed and struggling to make ends meet. In the aftermath of the pandemic, it is no surprise that Southeast Asians no longer feel secure just with a 9-to-5 job and are seeking alternatives to secure their financial future, come what may. 

Investing and business seen as the best side hustles

From working part-time to participating in the gig economy, people in Southeast Asia supplement their income in a variety of ways. Our research revealed that investing (21%), part-time jobs (18%), and gig jobs (18%) were the top choices for side hustles across Southeast Asia, reflecting the rise of the gig economy in Southeast Asia, as well as the preference for more flexible work arrangements over the traditional 9-5. 

The preference for certain kinds of work differs according to factors like cultural values and a country’s financial landscape. Notably, Singaporeans prefer investing (34%) far more than other options, while owning a business is more popular in Indonesia (32%). In Singapore, where there is a booming financial market, those with the means to do so may prefer to invest. On the other hand, in Indonesia, with over 62 million SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) according to the World Economic Forum, starting a business may be seen as a way to achieve financial security as well as surplus. 

How employers and policymakers can respond to the evolving needs of the workforce

The findings demonstrate something crucial: Southeast Asians want more. 

Employers must accept the changing reality that in today’s economic climate, employees may need additional sources of income to support themselves and their families. This does not have to be perceived as a bad thing, as employers also benefit from employees diversifying their skills and gaining more experience.

They are no longer content with clocking in and out at traditional 9-5 office jobs, and instead desire the safety net that comes with working more than one job. It is imperative that employers and policymakers understand that the world of today is not the world of yore - the average salaryman in Southeast Asia simply cannot rely on the salary of one job. 


This quantitative study was conducted in March 2023 via Milieu Insight’s proprietary panel, with N=3,000 respondents aged 16-42 - (N=500 respondents each in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and The Philippines).

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