'Feel a bit left out': Higher salaries for fresh graduates out of reach for some
A local survey published last month found that the median starting pay for fresh graduates had shot up to S$4,200.
SINGAPORE: A jump in the median starting pay for last year’s graduates has left some from the Class of 2022, who are earning less than their peers, feeling like they missed out.
A local survey published last month found that the median gross monthly salary of last year's graduates had shot up from S$3,800 in 2021 to S$4,200 (US$2,860 to US$3,160).
This was a sharp spike compared with previous years, where median salaries for fresh graduates typically increased by S$100 each year.
One mechanical engineering graduate, who took up an operations role in the automotive industry, told CNA that his starting pay was S$3,500 – well below last year's median salary of S$4,600 for those in the engineering cluster.
The 26-year-old, who only wanted to be known as Lewis, graduated from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in May last year. His current job was one of three offers he received within a month of applying for jobs after graduating in May last year.
The other two had offered a slightly higher pay of S$3,600 but he eventually settled for his current role due to the company’s reputation and the prospect of receiving bonus payouts of up to six months.
Based on his knowledge of the company's typical salary increments, he estimated that his salary would increase by about 5 per cent following his performance appraisal.
While this will bump his salary up to S$3,675, it would still be lower than last year’s median pay for his sector.
“I do feel a bit left out,” he admitted. “But at this juncture of my career, I’m still very much learning and so my focus isn’t really about how much I’m making, but rather the exposure and experience I’m getting."
Another fresh graduate, who received his degree in information systems from the National University of Singapore (NUS) last May, was offered S$5,200 for a software developer role.
The 27-year-old, who only wanted to be known as Keith, successfully negotiated a higher pay of S$5,500.
Despite this, his salary is still lower than the median starting pay of S$5,625 for those in the information and digital technologies cluster.
“I was already quite satisfied with the job scope and everything, so when they increased the pay, I just accepted it,” he said.
But not all graduates from the Class of 2022 have managed to land a job.
Another NUS graduate, who received her degree in psychology with a minor in communications and new media in December, is still unemployed and on the search for a full-time job.
The 24-year-old, who wanted to be known as Eunice, told CNA she applied for 60 to 70 jobs in various industries since the start of the year but few have responded.
“I’m casting my net wide and applying for roles that seem interesting to me, so I have been looking at entry-level and associate roles that suit my skills or are in companies that I really like,” she said.
“But I’m not feeling that optimistic because I’ve received quite a few rejection emails without even getting interviews from companies that I really wanted.”
As for those who responded, she decided not to continue her application due to a lack of interest in their respective industries.
But the clock is ticking and Eunice is giving herself until July to find a job she finds suitable.
“I’m definitely feeling a little bit nervous,” she said. “But I don't think it's so much about whether I can get a job or not, it's more of whether I find a job that fits me and my skill set and is a company that I feel like it's a good place to be in.”
DECLINE IN GRADUATE EMPLOYMENT
According to the 2022 Joint Autonomous Universities Graduate Employment Survey, 93.8 per cent of the 10,700 fresh graduates in the labour force polled were employed within six months of completing their final examinations.
This was a drop from the 94.4 per cent in 2021 who found jobs within six months and the first decline since 2017.
But HR experts CNA spoke to said they were not too concerned with the fall.
“The slight drop ... not significant to be worrisome,” said Dr David Leong, managing partner of PeopleWorldwide Consulting, an HR advisory and search firm.
HR expert Adrian Choo echoed his sentiments and pointed to positive signs such as a sharp decline in the number of graduates who had to take up temporary or part-time employment after being unable to secure a full-time job.
“We are seeing a very healthy trend,” said Mr Choo, the CEO of consultancy firm Career Agility International. “The people who are involuntarily employed has dropped to 0.8 per cent, which is really almost insignificant.”
Still, experts said the threat of unemployment looms with an increasingly gloomy and uncertain outlook.
“The uncertainty around the world with high interest, inflation run, an ongoing war in Ukraine and Russia and the considerable tension and polarisation between US and China can shift the temperature unpredictably to cause an economic meltdown,” said Dr Leong.
“Singapore’s slowing growth carries a risk of a technical recession, and at that time, the unemployment number will shoot up across the board.”