Singapore is a fast-paced society, with her citizens striving to outrun and get ahead of one another. Although positive, this has grave repercussions for many Singapore citizens, and foreigners working and living in the republic.
In most cases, the time zone of an area is determined by its geographical location. However, such is not the case with Singapore. Singapore time is a global outlier in this regard. According to its geographical location, one would expect Singapore’s time zone to be UTC+7 which would place it in the same time zone as locations such as Jakarta, Indonesia; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; Bangkok, Thailand; and Krasnoyarsk, Russia. However, Singapore time is calculated by using the UTC+8 time zone; this fact stands out because Singapore is located much farther west than other locations of the UTC+8 time zone. Locations of this time zone which lie farther east of Singapore include Shanghai, China; Taipei, Taiwan; Perth, Australia, and Makassar, Indonesia.
There is a historical basis for this discrepancy. This is because Singapore time was not always based on the time used in the UTC+8 time zone. Until January 1, 1982, Singapore time, as well as Peninsular Malaysia time, was that of the UTC+7:30 time zone. However, on that day, Singapore time and Peninsular Malaysia time were both moved to the UTC+8 time zone in order to be aligned with the time in East Malaysia.
Business Advantages of Singapore’s Time Zone
Despite the fact that it is a geographical anomaly, there are several business advantages which Singapore experiences by virtue of its being in the UTC+8 time zone. One of these lies in the fact that business activities between Malaysia and Singapore could be better coordinated. This is because a common time zone makes it easier for the two countries to manage business dealings, trade, and transport links.
The fact that Singapore time is now in the UTC+8 time zone also benefits the country on a broader global scale. This is because there are more major business hubs in the UTC+8 time zone than there are in the UTC+7 time zone. Among these leading business centers are Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Macau, among others. This fact allows businesses in Singapore to better align themselves with businesses in these areas and thus receive a greater share of revenue in this manner.
The UTC+8 time zone is also the world’s most populous. Approximately 1.708 billion people, or 24% of the world’s population, lives in a location which is part of this time zone. Therefore, because Singapore time is in the UTC+8 time zone, the companies of Singapore are able to gain a greater level of access to the world’s largest market by time zone because it is much easier to coordinate business activities and sales with other locations within the same time zone.
Impact of Singapore’s Time Zone on Individuals’ Daily Lives
The fact that Singapore’s time zone is not in line with its geographical location has caused some noteworthy effects to be experienced by everyone who lives in Singapore today. The fact that Singapore time is one hour ahead of its actual geographical time means that the country is effectively using Daylight Saving Time (DST) all the time. DST is a system in which certain areas of the world move their time ahead by one hour during the summer but return it to its usual time during the winter. Thus, although Singapore does not officially use DST, the effects of DST take place in Singapore as well because of its time zone discrepancy.
There are certain drawbacks associated with the effects of DST. For example, areas which use DST or experience similar effects, such as Singapore, are more likely to record a higher number of workplace injuries. The fact that geographical time and observed time are out of sync also causes many to become more fatigued over the course of the day. There is also a correlation between DST and heart attacks. This fact is evidenced in Singapore by a statistic which shows that around one of every three deaths in Singapore is caused by cardiovascular disease.
However, Singapore’s time zone and the effects of the quasi-DST which affects Singapore time also affects individuals in several positive ways. One of these is related to road accidents. Unlike the time of other areas which officially use DST, Singapore time is one hour ahead of its geographical time all year round because Singapore does not officially use DST. Therefore, DST’s effects perpetually affect those who live in Singapore. A recent study showed that areas which experience the effects of DST throughout the year have far fewer motor vehicle driver and passenger deaths than do areas which only use DST during certain portions of the year. On a related note, a year-round DST effect also reduces pedestrian fatalities by a significant degree. Another positive effect of Singapore’s anomalous time zone lies in the fact that it causes people living there to be in generally better moods. The effects of DST cause evenings and nights in Singapore to be longer than in other parts of the world. Longer evenings and nights have been shown to have a positive impact on the moods of people living in such areas including Singapore.
Impact of Singapore’s Time Zone on Employees
As a major business hub in Asia, companies in Singapore often interact with other companies in other parts of the world. For this reason, they need to be cognizant of the effects of time zones when interacting with such companies. Fortunately for many, the development of transport and communications as well as trade globalization has made the management of business activities over various time zones a simpler task.
The fact that Singapore time is not in sync with the geographical time of the area has proven to have had notable effects on employees in Singapore. As has been mentioned, the fact that Singapore is in the UTC+8 time zone has made it easier for Singapore companies, and thus their employees as well, to work with companies and employees of the same time zone. Therefore, it is easier for Singapore employees to coordinate business activities with associates in places such as Hong Kong; the Philippines; Malaysia; certain regions of Indonesia, Australia, and Russia; and most importantly of all, China. Singapore’s primary trading partner is China; thus, many employees in Singapore must work with people in China. Singapore’s time zone of UTC+8 makes doing so much easier.
However, Singapore’s time zone has also made it more difficult for employees to work with those located within the UTC+7 time zone. The fact that Singapore time does not match its geographical time forces employees who work with businesses or clients in locations in the UTC+7 time zone to adjust in order to better serve the needs of those with which they work. Notable areas within this time zone include Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and certain regions of Russia and Indonesia.
How the Government of Singapore Has Attempted to Mitigate Negative Time Zone Effects
It has already been mentioned that the fact that Singapore time is geographically misaligned has had certain effects. Some are positive while others are negative. The Singaporean government has recognized this fact and has therefore taken steps to counter the effects of negative phenomena brought about by Singapore’s time zone.
As has been stated, Singapore’s time zone would ordinarily cause a greater number of workplace injuries to take place. In response to this fact, the government enacted the Workplace Safety and Health Act in 2006. This act has done much to reduce workplace injuries in Singapore; the rate of workplace injuries in Singapore in 2018 was over four times lower than the rate in 2004. The Singaporean government also introduced the Work Injury Compensation Act which permitted employees in Singapore to make claims for injuries suffered at work without forcing them to take legal action. Thus, even if workplace injuries do occur, the Singaporean government has provided a method by which employees can be better protected.
Another negative effect of Singapore’s time zone is that of a diminished level of cardiovascular health which manifests itself in the form of a greater rate of heart attacks suffered by those living in Singapore. Thus, in order to combat this phenomenon, the government of Singapore through the Ministry of Health has introduced several initiatives to improve the cardiovascular health of those who live in Singapore. Among these initiatives are an incoming ban on partially hydrogenated oils, the creation of the National Steps Challenge, and the improvement of cardiac rehabilitation programs across the country. These initiatives have reduced or will reduce the negative cardiovascular effects brought about by Singapore’s time zone abnormality.
Singapore’s time zone also places it out of step with five other countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as many regions of Indonesia. This time difference would ordinarily increase the difficulty of conducting trade and business activities within the ASEAN regions. Such difficulty would be a serious problem for Singapore because as Singapore’s immediate geographical neighbors, these countries ought to be prioritized with regard to trade and business. This is why the government of Singapore has had the country become part of the ASEAN Free Trade Area, the ASEAN Economic Community, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Through its membership of these ASEAN programs, the barriers which increase the degree of difficulty regarding trade, business, and integration within the region can be either partially or fully removed; time zone issues would no longer present as much of a problem as they once did.
Anyone who moves to Singapore will soon notice the discrepancy between Singapore time and Singapore’s geographical location; this is just one of the many factors which make Singapore a unique country. Of course, those who are either from a country which officially uses DST or one which experiences similar effects such as Malaysia will find it easier to adapt to this difference. In any case, Singapore’s time irregularities should not dissuade anyone from choosing to live there because of the many positive experiences which may be enjoyed by anyone who lives in Singapore today.