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051222 - University Graduate Median Pay of $4.2K Doubles The $2K of Non-Degree Holders

University Graduates Have Median Pay of At Least $2K More Than Non-Degree Holders

profileHui Juan Neo

If you can recall, we’ve recently published the latest salary guide for fresh graduates.

Today, a survey found that university graduates in their 20s and 30s are earning more than double those with secondary and lower education, as well as those from the Institute of Technical Education.

To be exact, we’re talking about the median salary, which is $4,200 per month.

Source: Tenor

We’re not talking about starting salary, but the median salary i.e. the income in the middle after the workers are ranked by their income.

This figure is also 62 per cent higher than the median salary of diploma or A-level qualification holders, at $2,600.

If you’re thinking of pursuing a degree after working in the field for a while or this is part of your plan to upskill, this might be a signal


TL;DR: Research Found Significant Earning Gaps Between Degree Holders & Those Without

In summary, the study’s first set of findings revealed:

  • There is an existing group of “young working poor”
  • Working conditions and opportunities:
    • 35% of low-wage workers suffered job disruptions or quit during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 19% experienced an income loss
    • 75% of low-wage workers did not work remotely at all. compared to 41% of those with higher wages
    • 10% of the respondents have more than one job
    • Of those with higher wages, 21% suffered job disruptions while 4% saw an income loss
    • Those who are better educated are given opportunities and experience more job security
  • Mental health: More low-wage workers have symptoms of anxiety, such as having trouble sleeping or being particularly irritable, compared with those earning higher wages.

Disclaimer: The research is still ongoing and we will update this article in due course.


Research on Young Working Adults in Singapore

Here’s some background, the research was led by Associate Professor Irene Ng of the Social Work Department at the National University of Singapore, alongside 18 other researchers.

This is the first nationally representative research on the young working poor in Singapore.

To put things into context, 1,905 Singaporeans between the age of 21 and 38 years old and living in four-room or smaller Housing Development Board (HDB) flats were interviewed about the challenges they faced at work, among other things.

Before we move on, you will need to understand the definition of “low wage” and “higher wage”.

According to the Ministry of Manpower, low-wage workers refer to those in the bottom 20th percentile of wage earnings, which was $2,492 in June 2022; Higher-wage workers refer to everyone earning above the 20th percentile.

The research’s wave 1 report indicated the following median salaries between educational qualifications:

 Secondary and
below
ITEDiploma and
A-level
Degree and
above
Mean$2,221$2,104$2,829$4,753
Median$2,000$2,000$2,600$4,200

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Jobs Held By Young Working Adults

Similarly, the top five common jobs by the highest educational qualification (in descending order):

Top 5 job in descending orderSecondary and
below
ITEDiploma and
A-level
Degree and
above
1Delivery riders TechniciansAdministrative and general
executives
Engineers
2Administrative assistants and clerksDelivery ridersCall centre agents and customer service officersAdministrative and general
executives
3Salespersons, retail assistants and
cashiers
Salespersons, retail assistants and
cashiers
Administrative assistants and clerksFinancial consultants and insurance agents
4Call centre agents and customer service officersAdministrative and general
executives
Financial consultants and insurance agentsAccountants and auditors
5Security officersCall centre agents and customer service officersTechniciansGeneral managers (unclassified)

For the uninitiated, just last week, the MOM reported that lower-income workers are seeing higher pay increments, due to support from tripartite initiatives such as the Progressive Wage Model. Their income at the 20th percentile rose 4.8% this year from 4.4% last year.

But when we look at the bigger picture, the real median income of employed residents has increased to 2.1%, and at present, the gross median income is $5,070 across all industries and ages. If we were to put away the differences in sampling and demographics, the research figures among young working adults do seem quite alarming because of qualification differences.

As Prof Ng described:

“We value paper qualifications a lot.”

“Why so,” you ask?

There’s no better explanation than what our Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said:

“Singapore’s economy places too much of a premium on cognitive abilities, and does not sufficiently value those engaging in “hands-on and heart work” such as technical, service and community care roles adding that this earnings gap increases over their lifetimes.”

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Impact on Lower-wage Young Working Adults

Source: Giphy

The gap between those with different qualifications will only be bigger if we don’t close it up.

With various upskilling programmes such as SkillsFuture, or Work-Study diplomas, one might think it’s easy to jump on a new training programme.

However, by the level of education, degree workers were found to have attended more work training over the past 12 months, compared to those who are not.

Overall, according to the report, the lower-educated respondents had lower decision latitude, faced monotonous tasks more frequently, and were much less likely to attend employer-sponsored training.

In terms of the working environment, 75% of low-wage workers who were interviewed did not work remotely at all, as compared to 41% of those with higher wages.

Furthermore, more low-wage workers have symptoms of anxiety, such as having trouble sleeping or being particularly irritable, compared with those earning higher wages.

As Prof Ng summed up:

“If we don’t deal with the challenges they face, they will become the future poorest of the poor in need of government assistance.”

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Afterthoughts

“We must move away from preconceptions that academic success should be prized above all others. Instead, we must respect those who labour with their hands and hearts, and confer upon them the same status as other paths.”
~Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister

To move towards creating a more balanced and equal society, we would have to place more value on technical jobs or jobs in the services and community care sector.

It’s probably really the time to focus on work performance and not just paper qualifications.

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About Hui Juan Neo
A savvy shopper and foodie at heart, I'm always on a lookout for discounts and deals to snag the best bargains.
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