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Tan Chuan-Jin: Graduate underemployment low, but we are “not immune”

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Despite Singapore maintaining a low graduate underemployment rate, the country could be at risk if young talent continue to pursue higher education from institutions with “slick packaging”, rather than solid knowledge and skills.

In a speech in Parliament, Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin said young Singaporeans should look for qualifications “with substance” to ensure they have a long and steady career path ahead of them.

“We are seeing increasing access to private educational institutions or alternative routes which offer degrees of varying quality despite their slick packaging,” he said. “Those who spend time and money going to these institutions may bear the greater risk of underemployment.

“Actually, the market has begun to differentiate between degrees that carry their full worth in knowledge and skills, and those that are essentially paper qualifications. We should therefore encourage our young to pursue their interests, and go for substance when considering their education and career paths.”

Singapore’s resident graduate underemployment rate is low and stable, he said, at 2.3% in June 2013.

Although Singapore is not facing the same unemployment and underemployment problems as other countries around the world, Tan warned “we will not be immune to these trends”.

Around the world, graduate underemployment becomes a problem when an increasing number of degree holders enter a lacklustre job market, unable to provide good jobs for skilled graduates. This is exacerbaated when the skills acquired mismatch the skills needed in the job market.

To ensure graduates stay relevant in their fields,they need to have the skillsets to take on quality jobs.

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“This means we must press on with our restructuring efforts, as well as to continue to grow industries which offer good jobs for graduates and all Singaporeans. We need to attract the right companies to invest and grow their businesses here.”

At the same time, he added, things like the SkillsFuture Council will help to spearhead individual efforts to develop an integrated system of education, training and career progression for Singaporeans.

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“Employers also have to recognise the value in investing in the training of their workers and help them achieve mastery of skills. Overall, we have to create a culture where workers are motivated and able to continually acquire relevant skills and experience that will help them advance in their careers.”


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