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Govt can no more predict how many graduates needed by economy than it can predict shape and size of GDP growth

by Chris Kuan

Further to this 30-40% graduate cohort thingy. Beyond the fact of the Artificial Intelligence (AI)and tech revolution which ought to tell us we should err on the side of too much education and too much graduates than too few, and beyond the moral implications of killing off aspirations of a large part of society, the government can no more predict how many graduates are needed to "align" with the economy than it can predict the shape and size of GDP growth.

If it can predict in enough accuracy to set the number of graduates be it 30% or 60% of a cohort, then one assume terms such as "recessions", "slow growth", "long run growth potential" would disappear from the economic lexicon.

No, we cannot be certain of the shape and the long run trajectory of GDP growth as we cannot be certain of financial markets trends.To talk as if we can is just giving the appearance of solidity to pure wind. They may think they are super talents but nobody has yet invented a 100% proof crystal ball.

But this is what I think is horrible. After the government sets graduates at 30-40% of cohort to align with what they think are the needs of the economy, what happens if they are wrong?

I am sure they will pat each other on the shoulders for their "foresight" if GDP growth came in below expectations, Nevertheless we will have excess graduates and wages for graduates will fall. But what if GDP growth comes in above expectations? No prizes for guessing the result - increase intake of foreign graduate workers to meet the shortfall.

So what are we Singaporeans faced with? All the burdens and negative consequences of lower GDP growth which we cannot avoid but few, if not none of the rewards and positive outcomes of higher GDP growth. The younger generations and parents should really think if this is yet another pick your poison moment.

Children of mum and dad with $120,000 household income, good enough grades but due to quota, no place in local university. Bank of Mum and Dad can finance a degree in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom or United States.

Children of mum and dad with $50,000 household income, good enough grades but no place in local university. There is no Bank of Mum and Dad to finance an overseas degree. Maybe like old folks, our young men and women can go to Johor Bahru as a Facebook buddy said, once foreign universities caught onto the idea of offering cheap degrees there.

But jokes aside, university quotas can be shoved up where the sun don't shine. No matter how the government calibrate it, demand for degrees will be met one way or another whether the government likes it or not. One thing though, it saves the government money by having less of our young going into the local universities. What that means for social mobility and income inequality from the two examples above - well as said before it does not seem a concern at all to the government.

This post was first published as a Facebook post by Chris Kuan