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The Dismal State of PMET Retrenchment and Re-Employment: 60 Percent Out of Job and Unable to Re-Enter the Workforce

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ELSON: “Study so hard for what” is a common refrain heard among young boys and girls here who absolutely hate hitting the books.

Their view is even if you study hard and ace your grades, how will that tide you over in the future?

Singaporean parents, especially those who believe in meritocracy and social mobility, duly respond that “you get good grades, you don’t need to worry about your future”.

What happens if they are well-intentioned, but wrong?

For the past 9 years, the percentage share of Professional, Managers, Engineers and Technicians (PMETs) among retrenched workers has been rising, according to DBS senior economist Irvin Seah.

These highly-educated individuals have been retrenched at a higher rate than lower-skilled workers.

Degree-holders faced the highest rate of retrenchment, with diploma-holders next in line.

What is alarming is this – the re-employment rate for PMETs is also lower than the other segments of the workforce and the national average.

This, despite them having better qualifications.

Half a year after being retrenched, about 60 percent of degree-holders and 60 percent of diploma-holders don’t make it back into the workforce.

The problem comes when at the age of retrenchment, these individuals have long-term bills to pay (such as housing loans) and are faced with rising costs of living in the form of higher cost of goods (like healthcare) and higher taxes (impending GST hike).

Squeezed on all sides, where do they go then?

Looking at the issue from a birds-eye perspective, this is a system problem.

We can speculate as to the causes of why our skilled talent is floundering – influx of cheaper foreign labour, hegemony of government-controlled entities at the expense of home-grown SMEs, personal lack of versatility and resistance to training, global shifts in demand, the “gig economy”, and what have you.

The trickle-down effects of unemployment and under-employment have far-reaching effects on GDP, family (yeah, sex in small spaces but not yielding kids kind of effect), social mobility, societal tensions, and more.

Only the government has the full data set, and consequently the full picture of what’s going on.

That’s why Budget 2019 will be the one to watch.

It’s the chance for Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat, who is expected to become our next Prime Minister, to reveal to the public any inconvenient truths, what people can do about, and how the government intends to help them live up to their full potential.

 

 

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