In firefighters we trust (but not property agents)

WHO would you trust more? A fireman, or a real estate agent?

Thought so.

So did 760 Singapore residents who took part in an online poll conducted by Reader’s Digest magazine on the most trusted professionals in the country.

Conducted last October, the poll gave them two lists of 55 individuals and 40 professions and asked them to rate their trustworthiness on a scale of one to 10.

The results show that the people who are trusted most tend to have the most vital job of all – saving lives. Hence, besides firefighters, jobs in the medical industry dominate the top 10 places.

Doctors are second, surgeons fifth, paramedics seventh, followed by nurses, pharmacists and dentists. Judges, teachers and pilots round out the top 10. Not far behind are police officers in 11th place.

At the other end of the scale are those who deal with money, or wield influence.

Real estate agents brought up the rear. Just ahead of them, at 39th, were politicians. Financial planners were only slightly more to be trusted, at 38th.

But Mr Jeff Foo, president of the Institute of Estate Agents, was stoic about the results: ‘I’m not surprised. It’s partly due to our poor reputation and also because we are not regulated, with no entry requirements.’

That does not explain the politicians. With Singaporeans reputed to have so much faith in the Government, why the poor showing?

Mr Michael Palmer, MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, said: ‘From what I see on the ground, I don’t get a sense that people distrust us. Perhaps it’s because those surveyed responded not on trust but with their disagreement with the Government and its policies.’

But perhaps there is no need for any chest-beating. In any survey of this type, people tend to trust those they have to rely on most, said Ms Dora Cheok, editor of Reader’s Digest Asia.

Agreeing, organisational behaviour expert Donald Ferrin, an associate professor at the Singapore Management University, said: ‘Research has shown that when you are dependent on someone, you have a defence mechanism to want to trust someone, or it can make your life difficult.’

So it is only human, and probably why Singapore’s top 10 is almost identical to those from Malaysia and the Philippines.

Still, it does not take anything away from the quality of Singapore’s civil defence force and health-care professions, said Ms Cheok.

The three countries are among seven that participated in the first such poll done by the magazine in Asia. In Singapore, those surveyed were at least 20 years old, had at least secondary school education, and a minimum annual household income of $49,500.

As for lawyers who are ranked 32nd, Mr Palmer – who is also a lawyer – said the media could be to blame. ‘The only time you see us mentioned in the media is when a lawyer has been dishonest. Which is why we try to stay out of the papers!’

And what of those whom he blamed for lawyers’ poor showing? Journalists were placed 30th in the list, ahead of hawkers, taxi-drivers and bankers, but behind farmers, musicians and hairdressers.

Source : Straits Times – 26 Feb 2010

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