Will Singapore Degree Holders Become Maids Overseas One Day?

Many Singaporeans are aware that many of our Filipino helpers are degree holders in their own country. These well educated filipino helpers are willing to work as maids to escape poverty back home. Although their wages in Singapore may be deemed low, they can still manage to send money home to their families. With close to 40% of future cohorts coming out as fresh university graduates each year and competition from influx of foreign talents in Singapore, has it ever occurred to you that our degree holders may one day have to work overseas as maids if they can’t find and keep good jobs?

Why The Concern?

Singapore has set itself on an aggressive path to churn out more degree holders with 40% of the cohort expected to participate in local universities by 2020. This year alone, our Government is already providing 30% of the cohort with places at publicly funded universities, up 1,000 from the 13,000 places available in 2012. Not forgetting, there are many others who are also pursuing private or overseas degrees.

Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin flagged out the potential problem of a graduate glut in March 2014. Our country may be looking at a situation where there are too many graduates for too little ‘good enough’ jobs. Prospective graduates in Singapore could see their salaries take a hit in time to come as competition for entry-level roles here is poised to stiffen. Undergraduates from the public funded universities are starting to feel the heat while private universities undergraduates feared that their degree may not be of equal standing against those of the public funded universities.

In Europe and U.S. the high labour costs and high influx of tertiary graduates have led to structural unemployment in which there is an oversupply of PMEs than jobs available. The Eurozone crisis perpetuated the structural issues that they have long been facing. Greece’s unemployment rate is at 26.4% in 2013 while Spain’s is close behind at 26.3% and Portugal at 17.5% (Source: Eurostat). The resulting diaspora from the unemployed seeking a livelihood has resulted in socialissues, families displaced and lower bargaining rights of workers.

There are many PMEs in the Eurozone who are compelled to take on lower value jobs to make ends meet and a significant proportion of youth unemployment in Spain and Greece. If Singapore goes into recession, the day when our degree holders start taking up overseas maid jobs may not be that far away.

A Nation Of Young, Delusional Dreamers

To make things worst, our latest batches of Singaporean job seekers are perceived to not have enough fight in them and are delusional dreamers.

Our 1st generation of Singaporeans survived the Japanese Occupation, Malaysia-Singapore merger and separation, and withdrawal of the British army (that would directly remove 10% of jobs), hence they saw the value of economic security. They slogged hard for the nation to make sure that they would set the stage right for their children to be educated, obtain stable and secure jobs and build their own families.

With our nation’s economic foundation laid, our parents (2nd generation) and perhaps my generation (30 years old and above) were taught that there is nothing stopping us from attaining an illustrious career and wealth but a good education and years of hard work is required to make it happen. Singapore did entered a time of unprecedented economic prosperity together with the rest of the world and our parents did even better than they expected to. This left them feeling gratified and optimistic.

Baby Boomers Career Path Reality

Unfortunately, this group of parents was unable to fully impart the same values to our next generation.Perhaps influenced by American movies, these parents over-sheltered their children from hardship in life and consistently assured them that they are special and that they could be whoever and whatever they wanted to be. Growing up in such a ‘nurturing’ environment, we created tremendously hopeful kids with unrealistic expectations about their careers with little or no resistance to hardship and failures.

The Universum Top 100 Ideal Employers 2014 survey found that undergraduates in Singapore expect to be paid $3,308 on average each month. This is higher than the average monthly salary of $3,229 that fresh graduates actually draw, according to a separate graduate employment survey.

The end result? Our fresh graduates are frustrated, disappointed and probably will not stay in a job for long.

Expectation Of Gen Y Singaporeans - AspirantSG

The Media Is Not Helping 

Here we are talking about managing our graduates expectations and there we have traditional and online media publishing information from the latest salary survey by Ministry Of Education. With such salary benchmarks, will these impressionable graduates be expecting anything lower?

Media Portrayal Of University Graduates Pay - AspirantSG
Photo From The Independent

Social media channels also play a huge part in shaping our graduates’ expectations. Most people present an inflated version of their own existence on social media channels. Imagine our fresh graduate Lucy looking at the progress of some of her top achiever peers in their careers. We all know that people who are struggling in life tend not to broadcast their situation hence it leaves Lucy with a very inaccurate perception that her peers are all doing really well.

Social Media Lead To Unrealistic Expectations Of Graduates - AspirantSG

Companies Need A Progressive Wage Model for PMEs

Eventually when younger workers grow older and realize life is not a bed of roses, they will toughen up and look for opportunities. Social media may eventually balance out so more stories from both ends of the coin are surfaced.

However another limiting factor exists – can companies create opportunities for workers to climb the corporate ladder and make all jobs (even PME jobs) become better jobs?

If the median worker of yesterday, who was rank-and-file, aspired to climb the career ladder, the median worker of tomorrow, who will be a PME, will also aspire to do the same.

However companies may not always clearly plan career paths according to factors which determine the worker’s worth. Sometimes it’s based on a whim of the management whether they like the worker or not, how long the worker has been at the company (regardless of productivity) or other trivial factors that do not value add to the company.

NTUC recommends that companies plan a career path based on factors such as productivity, skills and career responsibilities, aka the Progressive Wage Model.

F&B Progressive Wage Model - AspirantSG

The Progressive Wage Model also helps the company map out how they can groom their local talent to maximize their abilities (instead of keeping the PMEs stuck indefinitely at lower positions where they are unable to contribute to higher level activities or see a clear future for their careers).

OPEC Cluster Progressive Wage Model - AspirantSG

Wake Up From Your Delusional Dream!

Will it add up to a horrible nightmare? We are churning out more university graduates like never before, our young workforce has an unrealistic expectation of their starting salaries, some have an insufferable attitude because they think they are special, and not all companies have Progressive Wage Models for PMEs to create better jobs for their future.

Well, here is what I have to say to our young tender workforce –

You better wake up your delusional dream, grab a job once you graduate and start working your ass off to secure your position.

No one owes you a living just because you have a degree (which will be obsolete in a few years’ time anyway).

Take social media reports with a pinch of salt because you create your own opportunities; a good life / career is not a given.

Ask your employers (current or future) about:

– The Progressive Wage Model or career plans they have for you

– The factors will determine your promotion or pay increase

– How they support second-skilling and continuous learning (on-the-job training is not anything special)

Of course, make good use of your free time over the weekends to develop your second skill along the way. You will never know if it will come in handy should you ever get axed one day.

At least, you would have created more opportunities for your futurebefore you need to consider becoming an overseas maid….

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