28 days ago -

The True Purpose of Work Revealed: 98% of Southeast Asians Want Meaning at Work


Singapore (25 April 2024) - 98% of Southeast Asians (SEA) say that meaning at work is important to them and more than half (53%) of them are planning to take action to achieve it. Released today by job platform Jobs_that_makesense Asia, and global recruitment agency Manpower, the study polled largely working adults as well as a smaller group of tertiary students (17%) poised to enter the workforce.

The report, titled: “The Quest for Meaning at Work", is the very first Southeast Asia-focused research survey on the pursuit of meaning at work. The report explores the responses of 2,023 participants from six key Southeast Asian countries and aims to define what meaningful work means to today’s workforce.

When looking for a new job, nearly half of the respondents (45%) have identified salary and financial stability as their top priority. And one in three respondents said that maintaining a positive work-life balance is becoming increasingly important for professional fulfillment. Significantly, the pursuit of a high salary is not driven by the quest for material wealth but rather by the aim to provide comfort and security for one’s family.

Unfortunately, the report shows only one in five (21%) of SEA respondents is “very satisfied” with the level of purpose in their current role, demonstrating a significant opportunity for organizations who want to set themselves apart in the tight talent market.



  • 98% of participants surveyed from six key SEA countries indicated that having meaning at work was important to them. Only one in five (21%) of SEA respondents indicated they currently feel “very satisfied” with their current level of meaning at work.

  • More than half of SEA respondents expect their companies to take a leading role in promoting sustainability initiatives. They also advocate for the creation of more positions dedicated to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) responsibilities and the provision of learning programs for employees that focus on societal impact and sustainability.

  • While the majority (86%) of SEA respondents believe that any job can contribute to the betterment of society and the planet, 53% of them are contemplating a career change to actively pursue this purpose. Impressively, 84% of those who have already made the transition report high levels of satisfaction.

  • The significance of a company's reputation, particularly in social responsibility, has become a critical factor for job seekers. In fact, 77% of SEA respondents indicate that a company’s reputation in these areas significantly contributes to their decision to pursue employment with them.

  • Respondents expect their companies and employers to balance improvements in workplace conditions with a commitment to broader societal well-being. More than seven out of ten respondents agreed enhancing working conditions with flexible hours, comprehensive health insurance and equal pay (74%), and advocacy for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and other social causes (72%) are actions organizations could implement to enhance their meaning at work.  

Jobs_that_makesense Asia CEO, Ms Léa Klein said, over the past three years, we've witnessed a significant shift in this area.

“We are seeing a distinct shift towards integrating sustainable practices into various job roles, which is a positive development.”  

“To meet our region's sustainability targets by 2030, we must accelerate the momentum we are seeing in this space. The workforce is increasingly committed to sustainability and DEIB practices, necessitating the expansion of sustainability-driven roles and upskilling programs. By mainstreaming sustainability across all levels of companies, these positions will become the new norm, ensuring the success of the entire region," Ms Klein said.

ManpowerGroup’s Regional President of Asia Pacific and Middle East, Mr Francois Lancon, said this research is closely aligned to ManpowerGroup’s vision that meaningful and sustainable employment has the power to change the world.  

“It is encouraging to see the findings of this report align to our own core belief that meaningful work is a key driver of employee happiness, health and productivity,” Mr Lancon said.  

“Today, as the acceleration of automation, a greater focus on ESG, and the emergence of generative AI reshapes industries and economies, organizations have more ability than ever to create opportunities for people to engage in purposeful and fulfilling work.”  

“While Manpower is committed to identifying and building talent with the right skills to succeed in these new roles, business leaders must have the courage to create opportunities that deliver the type of meaning today’s workforce craves,” Mr Lancon said.



Jobs_that_makesense Asiaserves as the Southeast Asia arm of Jobs_that_makesense, a platform committed to nurturing careers that drive societal and environmental progress. Since its inception in 2020, Jobs_that_makesense has operated a job board facilitating access to opportunities within the green and social sectors. It also documents the local sector landscape and lists curriculum programs, empowering professionals to embark on purposeful careers. Over the past three years, Jobs_that_makesense has attracted over 2 million visitors annually, enabling them to explore diverse opportunities. Additionally, it has assisted more than 7,000 green and socially driven companies in connecting with talented individuals. For more information about Jobs_that_Makesense, visitwww.jobsthatmakesense.asia.
Manpower®, part of the ManpowerGroup® (NYSE: MAN) family of companies, is a global leader in contingent staffing and permanent resourcing, providing companies with strategic and operational flexibility and creating talent at scale. Our talent agents and specialized recruiters leverage data-driven insights to assess, guide and place people into meaningful, sustainable employment, and our PowerSuite®tech platform enables assessment and matching to predict performance potential. Our Manpower MyPath®skilling program provides rapid skills development at scale with on-the-job training, market-based certifications, and coaching for roles in growth sectors. In this constantly shifting world, our flexible workforce solutions provide companies with the business agility needed to succeed. For more information about Manpower, visit www.manpower.com.sg