According to intern salaries data compiled by jobs site Glassdoor, engineering major interns with ExxonMobil reported only a monthly salary of S$1,217 – less than a third of the S$3,000 to S$5,000 range paid by financial institutions. According to Glassdoor, the highest-paying companies are all financial institutions like Barclays, Macquarie Group and Goldman Sachs. Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund company managing the CPF retirement fund, pays its interns between S$3,000 to S$5,000 a month.
The gross income inequality is just one of the key reasons behind the death of engineering in Singapore. Due to an influx of cheap engineers from third world countries like China, Philippines and India, the value of Singapore’s engineers sank to record low. Mostly hired by small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the average engineer salary with at least 2 years of working experience in his industry goes between S$2,500 to S$3,300 ex-CPF a month – the lowest purchasing power among developed countries like Taiwan, Japan, US and Australia.
Engineering salaries may be cheap in Singapore but the country is in desperate need for engineers – or at least, competent ones. The shortage of engineers in Singapore led to numerous service outage in the public sectors, with news reports running almost on a weekly basis of train breakdowns in its public transport infrastructure and lift breakdowns in HDB estates. Nonetheless, the country still refuse to pay more for engineering knowledge and instead continuing to import cheap engineers from third world countries.
Since 2014, the Singapore Government has been trailing on a Smart Nation campaign, calling for data analytics and automation in public infrastructures. However 3 years forward, the country is still unable to fulfil any of its engineering aspirations and even saw an exodus of biomedical engineering plants in 2016.
Many Singaporean engineers are disillusioned with the low salaries despite having the job market plentiful of engineering positions. Some switched to the finance industry, working in front line insurance and real estate sales. Others bring them university certifications overseas where they are welcomed as engineering professionals and accorded with equal salaries befitting of their engineering expertise.
In Australia’s skills shortage list, engineers have always been guaranteed a spot in immigration preference – especially those from English-educated countries like Singapore. A Singaporean engineer with three years of working experience can easily apply for a permanent residency visa under the skilled migrant category. Many have found engineering jobs in major cities like Sydney and Melbourne, with salaries easily 3 times higher and working hours at a legislated maximum 38-hour work-week.