By Terry Xu
The 2012 Graduate Employment Survey (GES) data of university graduates’ starting pay was published by Ministry of Education yesterday. Once again, the MSM paints a happy overall picture proclaiming that over 90% of the 2012 cohort were employed. The data which was particularly highlighted was the survey data from Singapore Management University (SMU), which shows a high figure of over 90% of employment of the graduates. Unfortunately the devil is in the details from the other two survey data from National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
As for the salary, the article from Todayonline states “SMU said the mean gross monthly salary of its fresh graduates in full-time permanent jobs is a record S$3,395, since its pioneer cohort graduated in 2004. This is slightly higher than the previous year’s mean gross monthly salary of S$3,388”
While the data does reflect the relatively high wages from the graduates. But a read at the footnote of the survey data indicates
Full-time permanent employment refers to employment of at least 35 hours a week and where the employment is not temporary. It includes those on contracts of one year or more.
Basic monthly salary pertains only to full-time permanently employed graduates. It refers to the basic pay before deduction of the employee CPF contributions and personal income tax.
Gross monthly salary pertains only to full-time permanently employed graduates. It refers to the sum of basic salary,overtime payments, commissions, allowances and other regular cash payments before deduction of employee CPF contributions and personal income tax
So the amount of high mean gross salary highlighted in the article is for graduates who are fully employed or on a contract term employment of minimum one year inclusive of all the benefits thrown in from employment. This data does not reflect on those who are employed on a part-time basis, or the 35 work hour definition for a full time employment. So what is S$3,388 in gross salary is actually about S$2,700 in salary after CPF contribution. Another reminder for the public to read the fine prints clearly.
Also not was not highlighted are the relatively low salary for degrees such as Bachelor of Music Studies in NUS, which earns about S$2,500 in gross salary.
However it is apparent that the MOE did a good job with the conduct of the survey and its share of the data with the general public with clear footnotes indicated. The survey conducted by the Ministry of Education is useful for graduates in the respective fields or potential students in determining the market value of their degrees.
But like with most surveys, the neutrality of the surveyor is to be scrutinized. Perhaps for the next survey to be conducted for graduates in 2013, an independent survey company could be asked to conduct or audit the survey results.
It should be emphasized that students should not use the salary as a single point of motivation to take up the courses to prevent oversupply of students of a few particular fields. Singapore should encourge diversivity in professions of the country to promote a vibrant economic environment in the country, and though it might not be able to manage the salary aspect of the profession, it should look into ways of mitigating the effect of the difference between the marked salary benchmarks for the graduates in their respective field.