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Civil servants on lower job grades hopeful of change

During his National Day Rally speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Public Service will place greater weight on job performance and relevant skills instead of just qualifications.

SINGAPORE: Civil servants placed on lower job grades as they do not possess a degree can look forward to getting a fair shake at career progression, following Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement.

During his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (Aug 17), Mr Lee called for employers to help their staff advance, regardless of their qualifications. The Public Service will do its part, he added, such as by placing greater weight on job performance and relevant skills instead of just qualifications.

A 25-year-old civil servant, who gave his name only as Derrick because those in Civil Service cannot speak to the media without permission, said that when he joined the service, he had to settle for substantially lower pay compared with degree holders performing the same job function.

This was because his employer did not recognise his bachelor’s degree from an overseas university offered via a partner institution here. He was placed on a diploma pay scale, and told it would take longer for him to be promoted compared with a degree holder.

“It’s very frustrating because I worked hard to do well for my degree. Though I have distinctions in all my modules, someone with a borderline pass grade from a recognised university will have an advantage over me. All because paper qualifications are still valued over experience and abilities,” he said.

Ms Lim, 29, another civil servant, said she was also placed on a lower pay scale because she had graduated with a second-class (lower) honours degree. “I’m doing the same job as someone on a higher (pay) scale, and I may even do it better than him or her. But because they have a better degree, I am at a disadvantage.”

Madam Tan, 65, who used to work in human resources in the Civil Service, said career progression may be slightly slower for those in the non-graduate scheme. But she pointed out that this group can move to the graduate scheme if their work performance is exceptional and they have acquired additional qualifications or accumulated many years of working experience.

A former senior civil servant, who declined to be named, reiterated that the Civil Service’s hiring process is transparent and that specific requirements of a job are stated clearly in recruitment advertisements. He added: “If a candidate can satisfy the selection panel interviewing them that he has the relevant experience and skills to do the job, then we can still hire him, even though he doesn’t have a degree.”

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