Poly Grads are facing declining real salaries and greater difficulty finding employment

The job landscape is looking worse for polytechnic graduates.

Median salaries have remained stagnant and employment opportunities are also weakening, the latest Graduate Employment Survey released yesterday revealed.

Last year, median gross salary did not change at all. Median gross salaries remained at only $2,000 per month, and this is similar to what polytechnic graduates were earning in 2013.

In 2012, median gross salary was $1,950.

Prior to that, the median gross salary remained stagnant for several years as well. In 2008, it was $1,854 but by 2011, it actually dropped to $1,850.

Since inflation has been increasing faster than nominal salaries, this means that the real median gross salaries of polytechnic graduates have actually been declining.

Core inflation is expected to increase by 2 to 2.5 percent this year whereas it was 1.7 percent in 2013 and 2.5 percent in 2012.

Thus not only does this mean that actual salaries of polytechnic graduates have remained stagnant, their real wages have fared even worse as they have indeed fell.

It is therefore obvious that Singaporean polytechnic graduates are finding it harder to survive on their meagre salaries.

Professor Tommy Koh recently revealed that one-third of students in Singapore go to school with no pocket money to buy lunch.

And when you look at the wage distribution, 30 percent of Singaporeans actually earn less than $2,000.

This directly implies that a large number of Singaporean polytechnic graduates start work at "poverty" wage-levels.

Given that salaries for polytechnic graduates and those who earn around $2,000 hardly pick up over their lifetime ie remaining stagnant, it serves to show many polytechnic graduates are expected to live on "poverty" wages for the rest of their lives.

With falling real wages, what this all means is that many polytechnic graduates will inevitably spiral deeper and deeper into becoming the truly destitute poor. If the outlook is already so bleak for polytechnic graduates, what about those without basic diploma certifications?

In 2010, the employment rate of fresh polytechnic graduates was 91.5 percent; it was 92.1 percent and 91 percent in 2011 and 2012 respectively.

In 2013, 89.8 percent of fresh polytechnic graduates were employed; however this fell to 89.2 percent last year-the lowest in the last half of a decade.

And so the employment rate for polytechnic graduates has been edging downwards, as you can see for yourselves.

Worse still, more and more polytechnic graduates have to make do with part-time jobs as full-time job opportunities have become scarcer.

In 2010, 68 percent of fresh polytechnic graduates could find full-time jobs. It fell to 67 percent in 2011, and yet even further to 65.4 percent in 2012.

In 2013, 62.7 percent of fresh graduates were able to find full-time jobs and the slide continued to 59.4 percent last year.

On the other hand, 29.8 percent currently have to settle for part-time jobs, even much higher than the 27.1 percent in 2013.

In 2012, this figure was only 25.7 percent. It was a lower 25.1 percent in 2011 and an even lower 23 percent in 2010.

Any surprise more and more fresh polytechnic graduates are taking up part-time employment then? Is the extent of the unemployment situation actually worse off than what is reported in mainstream media?

The government said that the recommendations made by the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) committee seek to enhance the skills of polytechnic graduates, in turn enhancing their job opportunities.

Yet, many graduates have to survive on very tiny pay packages; coupled with much fewer chances of full-time employment and increasing uncertainty surrounding job security, the recommendations put forth hardly seem useful nor constructive.

Not forgetting the government has been rather resistant towards increasing the salaries of polytechnic graduates and even with the committee's recommendations, it has continually refused to review these issues thoroughly.

Can anyone be faulted for thinking the government is merely all fluff and no action?

This editorial piece first appeared in The Real Singapore on 15 January 2015. It was reproduced with permission.


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