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PM says education system would prepare students for future while new grads find difficulty getting jobs

Addressing the MOE Edusave Award recipients and their families at Townsville Primary School on Sat (5 Jan), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the students and parents that the recent changes to the education system will make learning more meaningful for students.

These include reducing the emphasis on academic results, dedicating more curriculum time to deeper learning, and helping students draw the link between textbook content and the real world.

“We want to inculcate in young Singaporeans the passion to ‘learn for life’ so that they are prepared for the future economy,” he added.

However, even as the education system is being changed to make learning meaningful so as to prepare the students for the future economy, it was reported last year that it is increasingly getting difficult for Singaporean young graduates to find jobs.

Percentage of new grads finding a full-time job 6 months after exams dropping

According to annual surveys of new graduates from National University of Singapore , Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University, only 78.4 per cent of their graduates in 2017 managed to secure full-time permanent employment six months after their final examinations. This figure was the lowest in 10 years, down from 89.8 per cent in 2007.

And for those graduates studying humanities or some science courses such as chemistry, the figure dropped further – only 50-60 per cent found full-time jobs six months after their final examinations.

For the graduates from private schools offering university degrees, the drop was even more drastic, with the full-time permanent employment rate falling to 47.4 per cent in 2017 from 60.1 per cent in 2016.

Chris Lim, 26, is an SMU student graduated with a Business Management degree in Dec 2016. He didn’t expect it would take him 10 months to find his first full-time job. In the 10 months, he sent out some 70 application letters only to get less than 10 interviews.

A human resource specialist whom TOC spoke with shared that many companies now opt to hire Employment Pass holders if they could instead of locals because of the CPF component of the local and the foreign workers would hardly complain if they are mistreated because of the desire to stay on in the country.

Underemployment in Singapore

Even with an expanding economy and unemployment said to be low in Singapore, regional CIO at UBS Wealth Management, Kelvin Tay, noted that Singapore’s robust economic growth and low unemployment rate have masked the underemployment situation in Singapore. It had been a jobless recovery, he told the media in an interview last year.

He said that jobs creation had actually been “very, very mild”. “We have some slack in the economy because not everyone is gainfully employed. The underemployment issue is still an issue where the economy is concerned,” he said.

Many HR xperts have highlighted that the official unemployment rate has its limitations in reflecting the actual employment situation in Singapore. For one, the statistic doesn’t distinguish between full-time or part-time employment. It also doesn’t account for people who are underemployed, or working in jobs they are overqualified (and underpaid) for, whether by choice or circumstance.

For example, a PMET driving a Grab car would be considered “fully” employed, even though he may be “overqualified” for the job. The unemployment figure doesn’t show just how many have become so discouraged that they give up hope of finding full-time jobs and end up driving Grab or taxi.

In any case, despite dedicating more curriculum time to “deeper learning” in our education system, it’s not known how many of the students who received the MOE Edusave Award from PM Lee on Sat (5 Jan) would eventually end up as a Grab or taxi driver after their university graduation.

Even so, driving a Grab or taxi can be risky at times. Last Apr, a British expat, John Jefferson, 26, who worked as a financial analyst in Singapore was found guilty of punching a Singaporean taxi driver. After making the taxi driver drive around in circles, the British “foreign talent” hurled vulgarities and claimed the taxi driver had “driven to the wrong place”. He got out of the taxi without paying. When the cabby tried to stop him, he punched the cabby in the left eye area, knocking his spectacles off. The expat’s lawyer in mitigation said the offence was “out of character” for the financial analyst, and that he had a low risk of re-offending.