DPM Lawrence Wong recently spoke about helping workers build skills, as well as to strengthen the different pathways to success at the annual Singapore Economic Policy Forum 2022.
In his speech, he also shared that Singapore places too much of a premium on intellectual “head” work and does not sufficiently value “hands-on” technical jobs or “heart” work such as services and community care roles. As such, this has led to a worrying divergence in salaries between workers of different educational backgrounds. In the last ten years, the number of university graduates has gone up significantly.
The thing is, can Singaporeans move away from preconceptions that academic success should be prized above all others? It will probably take quite a bit of mindset change. In the meantime, we must consciously respect those who labour with their hands and hearts, and confer upon them the same status as other paths. As DPM Wong shared, like everyone else, these workers should also be given opportunities to advance in their respective fields.
At the end of the day, Singapore’s promise is that people will recognised for their skills, given opportunities to progress and rewarded for their effort as long as they work hard and continually upskill.
Median starting salary for a university graduate is now almost twice that of an ITE graduate
Did you know that the median starting salary for a university graduate is now almost twice that of an ITE graduate? And this earnings gap increases over the graduates’ lifetimes. DPM Wong shared his concern about the widening gap between the starting salaries of ITE, polytechnic and university graduates.
This arises because the Singapore economy pays too high a premium for jobs that require cognitive abilities and undervalues technical hands-on work as well as jobs in services and community care.
“There is a need for painstaking effort, industry by industry, to look at ways to redesign jobs and raise productivity; to upgrade skills and establish better career progression for workers,” DPM Wong reminded.
SkillsFuture has been a good initiative to encourage lifelong learning, with over 660,000 people benefiting from programmes supported by the scheme last year. But Singapore needs to support workers in investing their time in more meaningful, more substantial training. The NTUC has also been pushing very hard for training to support Singapore’s workforce and business transformation in building a ready, relevant, and resilient workforce.
With the Government, businesses, the labour movement as well as society doing their part, we can then ensure every generation does better than the previous.