Parliament: Ensuring under-employment problem kept at bay in Singapore

SINGAPORE - With more degreeholders in the workforce, Singapore will not remain immune to the problem of under-employment, said Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin on Tuesday.

Although the current under-employment rate of 2.3 per cent in June last year is low and stable, he said it is crucial for the Government to keep the economy vibrant to provide jobs for them.

Also, both employees and employers must play their part in ensuring that graduates have the skills to get good jobs, he added.

Under-employed workers clock in at most 35 hours a week, even though they want to and are available to work more hours.

But they cannot as the economy does not have enough suitable jobs for them.

Hence, it is imperative that the Government keeps the economy competitive enough to create quality jobs, Mr Tan said in Parliament when replying to Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC).

This requires Singapore to press on with its restructuring efforts and "to attract the right companies to invest and grow their business here".

At the same time, people must arm themselves with the skills to take on these jobs. The new SkillsFuture Council, made up of government agencies, labour unions and employers, will help spearhead these efforts, he said.

The Council will develop an integrated system of education, training and career progression to help individuals make informed choices. It will also strengthen the linkages between education and training institutions, and industry needs.

Employers too must recognise the value of investing in the training of their workers, he added.

"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.

"This includes degree holders, who must also take ownership of their individual career and training development throughout life."

Ms Foo had asked what measures the Government had on the cards to ensure graduate under-employment does not worsen in Singapore.

Singapore's resident graduate under-employment rate is 2.3 per cent in June last year compared to 2.2 per cent in 2012 - a rise Mr Tan described as low and stable.

But he cautioned that while Singapore is not facing the unemployment and under-employment problems seen in other countries, it is not immune to them.

The proportion of degree holders in the workforce is rising, with people having greater access to private educational institutions and alternative routes that offer "degrees of varying quality", he noted.

"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 encourage our young to pursue their interests, and go for substance when considering their education and career paths," he said.