Stop discriminating non-degree holders

“ITE and polytechnic graduates will get a big boost to help them match their skills to the right jobs and move up” says DPM Tharman.

Although generally a good thing that there is top-down direction to level the ground of both graduates and other qualifications, there is still much in that quote that frightens me.

• What about qualifications not from an ITE or polytechnic?

• What do you mean by “match skills to jobs and move up”? In short, what we really want to know is… is there opportunity to see real salary increase to match those of degree holders?

• Will there be real recognition to skills? Or is the administration going to continue treating “lesser graduates” as pawns?

The problem with having skills can be understood by this colloquial complaint: “My boss keeps rewarding my good work, with more work!”

For a bit of a ground feel, read these complaints from an article in ChannelNewsAsia:

“A 25-year-old civil servant, who gave his name only as Derrick because those in Civil Service cannot speak to the media without permission, said that when he joined the service, he had to settle for substantially lower pay compared with degree holders performing the same job function.”

“It’s very frustrating because I worked hard to do well for my degree. Though I have distinctions in all my modules, someone with a borderline pass grade from a recognised university will have an advantage over me. All because paper qualifications are still valued over experience and abilities,” he said.

“Ms Lim, 29, another civil servant, said she was also placed on a lower pay scale because she had graduated with a second-class (lower) honours degree. “I’m doing the same job as someone on a higher (pay) scale, and I may even do it better than him or her. But because they have a better degree, I am at a disadvantage.”

“Madam Tan, 65, who used to work in human resources in the Civil Service, said career progression may be slightly slower for those in the non-graduate scheme. But she pointed out that this group can move to the graduate scheme if their work performance is exceptional and they have acquired additional qualifications or accumulated many years of working experience.”

You see, for the longest time many of our workers have been the object of discrimination all in the name of “meritocracy”. And save for a few voices from the NTUC, there has been no real change from the civil service.

Reality has proven that paper qualifications are little guarantees of ability. Many a hardworking person has brought much reward to his company, but because of qualification does not see reward for himself.

All this can be very frustrating. It creates contempt against leaders of the organisation. How many times have you heard the complaint “The idiots at the top only know how to talk, don’t know how to do”. Or “Why they put monkeys in charge, they don’t know what’s going on the ground”.

As wage gaps widen, these complaints and animosity against leaders are just going to deepen and widen, brewing a curious harm the damage of which we can only imagine.

Whatever the PM and DPM’s direction is – I can only hope that it is effective, it is swift and it is authoritative. And that it can lead to social change. I personally hope all this is not going to be a show of intent without leading to action.

This article first appeared on Five Stars And A Moon. It is reproduced with permission.


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