SINGAPORE — The results of the Graduate Employment Survey released recently have raised some concerns about the employment prospects of fresh graduates in Singapore.

While the median gross monthly salary for full-time permanent employment has increased, and more graduates have secured full-time jobs, the number of unemployed graduates and those in part-time or temporary employment has increased.

Perhaps more worrying is the fact that the percentage of university graduates who found permanent, freelance or part-time jobs within six months of graduation has decreased, from 94.4% in 2021 to 93.8% in 2022. The unemployment rate has also increased, from 5.6% to 6.2%.

What is particularly notable is the real starting salary increase for graduates. Over the last 16 years, the real starting salary increase has only been 0.7% per year.

This is particularly concerning given the high cost of living in Singapore. The survey also found that fewer graduates in courses requiring post-graduate practical training found employment after completion of their practical training.

While the median gross monthly salary for full-time permanent employment has increased, this increase has not kept up with inflation.

In fact, the real increase in salaries per annum was only about 0.7%, since inflation was about 2.2% per annum for the same 16-year period. This means that the real increase in the starting salaries of graduates has not kept pace with the rising cost of living in Singapore.

One factor that could be contributing to the low real salary growth of university graduates is the liberal issuance of Employment passes and S-Passes, which have minimum salaries of $S5,000 and S$3,000, respectively. This may be reducing the bargaining power of local graduates in the job market.

It is important that the Graduate Employment Survey report the starting salaries of graduates in real terms too, instead of just the nominal increase.

This would give a more accurate picture of the employment prospects and earning potential of fresh graduates, and help graduates make better-informed decisions about their future.

Since “Employment” refers to graduates working on a full-time permanent, part-time, temporary or freelance basis”, the employment rate is hardly a good sample of how the job market is also. Why not breakdown the statistics into full-time permanent, part-time, temporary and freelance?

While there are some positive trends in the Graduate Employment Survey, such as more graduates securing full-time jobs, the low real salary growth and the increased unemployment rate should be a cause for concern.

Can you imagine earning $302.4 more than someone 16 years ago in real terms?

More needs to be done to ensure that graduates are able to secure jobs with competitive salaries and benefits, and to help them navigate the increasingly challenging job market.

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