The Manpower Ministry (MOM) said on Thursday (Nov 30) that employment rate dipped between June last year and June this year for residents aged 15 to 24. The employment rate for this group was 34.1 percent in June this year, down from 35.8 percent in June 2016 and 36.8 percent in June 2015. According to the advance labour force report, this recent trend was largely attributed to the young Singaporeans having an inclination to pursue higher education and thus postpone their entry to the workforce.
Recent check from several educational institutions including the Singapore Management University (SMU), the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) also indicated similar trend. These universities are seeing an increase in the number of Singaporeans pursuing post-graduate studies, Today Online reports.
SMU reported 16 percent more people have graduated from post-graduate courses this year, up from 818 last year to 947 this year. The statistics demonstrated an unbroken upward trend since 2011. The university’s dean of postgraduate professional programmes, Associate Prof Themin Suwardy commented that those taking their master’s degrees from SMU indeed have grown tremendously in the last few years, owing to the fact that students find that it can help them broaden their networks with similarly motivated individuals.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson from NUS said that over the past year, about 10 percent more Singapore citizens are going back to post-graduate school, bringing the number to 3,400 this year. In NTU, around 3,000 Singaporeans take up post-graduate studies this year and last year.
Data from polytechnics also indicated a growth in the number of people on part-time, temporary, or freelance employment. The statistics went up from 31 percent in 2015 to 34.8 percent in 2016. Many of these fresh grads said they were pursuing or starting further studies.
Associate Professor Randolph Tan, a labour economist from the Singapore University of Social Sciences, said that Singapore needs a workforce with the breadth and depth of skills, so continual retraining and acquiring of new skills would be needed as there will be new challenges for the millennial workforce. He also noted that although younger generation with higher educational qualifications tends to be open to continual training, they also hold significantly different outlooks and aspirations. Therefore, policymakers need to ensure that the workforce possesses the right values for the future economy, while supporting better education to create a stronger workforce.
A labour expert from NTU, Professor Chew Soon Beng said that young people wanting to study should be seen as a good sign. This means that people are rational and they will choose those studies that will make them more employable with higher wages, he said.
On the other hand, Dr Chua Hak Bin, an economist with Maybank Kim Eng, suggested that the falling employment rates among the younger generation might mean that employment opportunities were not that great for them, so they are keen to extend their studies instead.
The labour force here is subjected to structural challenges, an official from the labour movement noted. Assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Patrick Tay said that these include challenges as a result of digital disruption, digitalisation, robotisation, mechanization, as well as artificial intelligence in the coming years.