Because of the tight labour market, the measure of underemployment which Singapore has — time-related underemployment — is on a downward trend, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said in Parliament on Nov. 22, 2023
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), time-related underemployment refers to persons aged fifteen years and over who are working less than 35 hours a week (i.e. working part-time) and are willing and available to engage in additional work.
Today, of all employed residents in Singapore, time-related underemployment accounts for about three per cent of the entire workforce.
For fresh graduates, which Tan defined as fresh graduates from Singapore's autonomous universities, polytechnics and the Institutes of Technical Education (ITE), this figure drops to 1.9 per cent, he said.
Tan was responding to a question by Member of Parliament (MP) Nadia Ahmad Samdin on whether there are any statistics on underemployment faced by graduates.
Number of job vacancies trending downwards but remained high as of June 2023
Nadia also asked about job openings for fresh graduates in the third quarter of 2023 and the government's assessment of the impact of worsened business expectations on them.
Tan replied that the number of job vacancies has also trended downwards but remained high at 87,900 as of June 2023.
The ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons also stood at 1.94.
This downward trend is because of the tougher, uncertain economic outlook facing Singapore and the economic headwinds in the "next few quarters".
While hiring sentiments have dipped in the third quarter of 2023, the overall labour market remains tight, he added.
The government will continue to monitor the situation and stand ready to assist fresh graduates.
This will also extend to graduates who have just finished National Service, Tan added.
90 per cent of the fresh graduate cohort found employment within six months in 2022
The minister also noted that there is no data on job openings for fresh graduates as employers do not usually specify the demographic requirements of job applicants in their job advertisements, as this is a breach of Tripartite Guidelines on Fair Employment Practices (TGFEP).
Based on the annual Graduate Employment Survey (GES), however, employment outcomes for fresh graduates from the universities, polytechnics and ITEs have remained strong.
Amongst fresh graduates looking for jobs, about 90 per cent of the 2022 cohort were employed within six months of graduation.
In addition, among those employed, 80 per cent were in full-time permanent employment, comparable to pre-Covid levels, according to Tan.
This includes those employed on contracts that last one year or more.
The remaining 20 per cent of the employed are in part-time, temporary or freelance employment, mostly by choice, with the majority of them doing so to pursue further studies.
Fresh graduates have an "extensive range" of programmes to support them
In terms of help, fresh graduates can reach out to education and career coaches in their respective Institutes of Higher Learning should they require aid in their job search, the minister highlighted.
Alternatively, they can also tap on Workforce Singapore's (WSG) career matching services.
When Nadia asked about other types of resources that young graduates could tap into for help and noted that SkillsFuture might not be as applicable to them, Tan said that government agencies are working with industry partners.
The government is also working with the labour movement and unions to facilitate the entry of polytechnic and ITE graduates into good jobs within key priority sectors with "attractive" starting wages and "meaningful" career progress pathways, he added.
In the information and communications technology (ICT) sector, the government is working with the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and established an initiative known as the TechSkills Accelerator programme in 2022 for ITEs and polytechnics.
This programme aims to drive the shift in hiring practices in the tech industry from one that is qualification-based to one that is skill-based, he said.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) is also scaling up its work-study programmes in which fresh polytechnic and ITE graduates are placed into jobs where they can deepen their skills through a programme that includes on-the-job training while pursuing careers related to their studies.
The career matching services that WSG provides also offer a "very good supplement" to the current education and career guidance program provided by MOE and Institutes of Higher Learning.
There is, therefore, an "entire suite of programmes" available for fresh graduates to tap upon, he said.
Labour market report in December will show the starting pay of the most recent batch of graduates
When Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Leong Mun Wai from the Progress Singapore Party asked whether there has been any growth in the starting pay of the most recent batch of graduates in light of inflation, Tan replied that he did not have the statistics offhand.
He suggested that Leong could file a subsequent Parliamentary question for him to address and said the upcoming labour market report in December would show the statistics.
Top photo by Damir Kopezhanov via Unsplash