Photo of university graduates from Straits Times

According to a government survey conducted by Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, about 4.31% of the degree holders are drawing less than S$2,000 a month on a full-time job. Labelled as “severely under-unemployed” and “graduate poor”, 70 of the 1,626 Singaporean employees interviewed between August and November last year lamented about the high unemployment rate in Singapore.

State media revealed that the majority of them are from the health and social services (18%), financial services e.g. insurance sales (12%), transport e.g. driving Uber (7%) and education e.g. tutoring (7%). 63% are females with a median age of 35, and had 10 to 15 years of work experience.

The unemployment rate for Singaporeans reached a 9-year-high of 3.3% last year, but the figure was watered-down by the government’s “creative accounting” in unemployment calculation. National Servicemen are labelled as “employed”, and elderly above the age of 62 and housewives who are actively seeking jobs, are not counted as part of the unemployment statistics. Those who are unemployed for more than 6 months were also taken out of the statistics and placed under “long-term unemployment”.

Then there is a new category of “under-employment”, according to the Singapore government. A person is considered “under-employed” when one takes up a lower-skilled job, or engage in lengthy part-time work with hours clocking more than the weekly full-time 40 hours.

The Singapore government’s solution to rising unemployment is a call for skills upgrading. Each Singaporean was even given S$500 in “skills upgrading” credits. However, the policy has little impact as unemployment rate continued to climb over the years.

The Ministry of Manpower dished out the same old advice asking Singaporeans to “learn new skills”:

“We note the survey findings that a vast majority of these graduates are receptive to learn new skills to pursue better career opportunities. We urge them to approach Workforce Singapore (WSG) and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) for assistance.”