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Oral Answer by Mr Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Manpower, to Parliamentary Question on Unemployment Rate for Degree Holders

Notice Paper No. 346 of 2014 For The Sitting On 04 November 2014 Question No. 343 For Oral Answer

MP: Mr Yee Jenn Jong

To ask the Minister for Manpower in light of the 2013 Labour Force Survey report which states that the unemployment rate for degree holders below the age of 30 is 7.4% (a) what are the reasons behind this relatively high unemployment rate; and (b) whether the Ministry is taking any measures to address this issue.


  1. When Mr Yee alludes to the unemployment rate of 7.4% and said this was very high, I am not certain what his reference points are but there are a few perspectives. Does he mean that it is high compared to other countries? Or is it high because it is higher than the overall unemployment rate? Or is it high because it has increased significantly from the past? Let me address these three perspectives.
  2. Across all educational levels, our youth unemployment rate has remained low by international standards. Whether compared with the advanced economies, such as the US and EU, which are facing youth unemployment rates in the double-digits, or with the other developed Asian economies such as Hong Kong and South Korea.
  3. The youth unemployment rate across all countries is typically significantly higher than the overall unemployment rate. This pattern is similarly reflected in our unemployment rate of 7.4% (seasonally unadjusted) for degree holders below the age of 30, compared to the overall unemployment rate amongst degree holders of 3.6% (seasonally unadjusted) in June 2013. We find this pattern repeated across all the different countries. There is a reason for this. This is mainly due to new graduates joining the job market, as well as the higher incidence of job switching amongst young graduates as they figure out what that want to do, rather than any systemic difficulty in securing employment. So we find these trends typical across most, if not all countries. About nine in ten of our young degree holders from the local autonomous universities are able to secure a job within six months of graduation. The median duration of unemployment for resident degree holders below the age of 30 is also not long, at about 5 weeks.
  4. Thirdly, the rate has actually come down from 2009 and has remained largely stable for the recent few years1. The Government will continue with a comprehensive approach to keep both our overall unemployment and youth unemployment rates as low as we can. First, it is crucial and I think it is important that we need to maintain a strong and vibrant economy so that businesses have a conducive environment to operate in and in turn create the quality jobs for all Singaporeans. Second, we need to ensure that our education and training system continues to equip Singaporeans with industry-relevant skills to prepare them for the job market. We know that trends are evolving; technologies are evolving quickly, so this is where the commitment to lifelong learning at every educational level is particularly important.
  5. MOM will continue to monitor the underemployment rate and unemployment rate of young degree holders and for Singaporeans at every level and will work closely with tripartite partners to help young degree holders access quality jobs, and facilitate their career development and progression.

1Refers to annual average resident unemployment rate for youths (aged 15-24).