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More fresh graduates unemployed while government exercises “selective flexibility” in allowing in foreign talents

by Kwok Fangjie

After a shock revelation that more young people were turning to drive for GRAB and Uber as a full-time career, a Graduate Employment Survey released on Tuesday (3 Apr) painted a dismal picture for graduates of Private Universities.

While the overall employment rate seems healthy at 79%, only 47.4% of such graduates found full-time, permanent employment within six months of graduation. This implied that almost one in three graduates (the difference between 79% and 47.4%) had to  resorted to freelance and part-time jobs.

For the luckier ones who have managed to secure full-time employment, the median gross monthly salary was S$2,650 – a mere 7% higher than that of the $2,480 commanded by polytechnic graduates who have served NS.

Given that that only 37% of the graduating cohort responded to the survey, the actual situation could have been much worse. While the survey was anonymous, the unemployed graduates were more likely to shy away from providing details as they would be more likely to want to avoid talking about their situation.

Does MOM’s Fair Consideration Framework work?

Judging from official statistics given by the Ministry of Manpower, the number of Employment Pass (EP) holders rose by 10.6% in the span of 4 years from 2012 to 2016. To level the playing field for Singaporeans, employers are required to advertise on the national jobs bank for 14 days before they are able to submit an EP application.

Yet, the then Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan Jin admitted in 2014 that his ministry was not able to “directly track” the number of applications submitted by Singaporeans. To make matters worse, the number of non-compliance has doubled in the span of a year with more than 500 firms having been put on the watchlist in 2018 for unfairly favouring foreigners, up from 250 in 2017.

Instead of imposing tighter measures – such as those in Australia where companies are required to prove that a local is unable to do the job before a foreign work visa is granted to an overseas applicant – the MOM has taken a more liberal approach to the approval of work passes.

Minister Lim Swee Say said at a dialogue organised last month by the Singapore National Employers Federation that the MOM allows for “selective flexibility” in bringing in foreign talents as these foreign PMETs have skills in which Singaporean PMETs “lack”. He added that the MOM approves about 80% of EP applications.

Blackbox: Widening income gap in Singapore a “worry”

Just last week, market research consultancy Blackbox published a survey which showed that 69% of Singaporeans feel that income inequality has worsened over the past 5 years while 52% think that current government policies to address inequality were ineffective. Additionally, 90% of Singaporeans youths feel anxious about the unequal distribution of income.

While the direct impact has yet to be felt, the overall picture does not look pretty with limited action from the government. In fact, it would seem that the collective result of graduate underemployment and underemployment would only make this inequality worse in time to come.

What do you think?