Exposing the Myths in the PAP’s Education Changes: Wages Still Don’t Grow

At the National Day Rally last week, Lee Hsien Loong said, “Do not go on a paper chase for qualifications or degrees, especially if they are not relevant because pathways and opportunities to upgrade and to get better qualifications will remain open throughout your career.

But do you know this is not the first time Lee Hsien Loong said this? In May last year, The Straits Times quoted him as having said, “polytechnic students have many good options after graduating and need not just aim for a university degree.”

In fact, Lee Hsien Loong was not the only PAP minister to have said this.

National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan echoed by saying that, “If they cannot find jobs, what is the point? You own a degree, but so what? That you can’t eat it. If that cannot give you a good life, a good job, it is meaningless.

Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing then also said, “It’s not the degree or the diploma… that is most important… What matters most is the training of the mind and the ability to grasp an issue, ask the correct questions, dissect the problem and find the solutions.

Like many Singaporeans I had heard from, “which government in their right mind will tell their citizens that it is not important to get a degree?”

ASPIRE Committee Recommends Polytechnic and ITE Students to “Deepen Skills”

So, a few days ago, the PAP government released the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) report. The report made the following 10 recommendations:

  1. Strengthen education and career guidance (ECG) efforts in schools, polytechnics and ITE.
  2. Enhance internships at the polytechnics and ITE.
  3. Increase Nitec to Higher Nitec progression opportunities so ITE students can deepen their skills.
  4. Establish polytechnic and ITE leads for each key industry sector to strengthen linkages with industry and help enhance programme offerings.
  5. Expand online learning opportunities to make it easier for individuals to learn anywhere and anytime.
  6. Provide more development and support programmes for polytechnic and ITE students to help every enrolled student succeed.
  7. Launch new programmes that integrate work and study, such as place-and-train programmes, to provide an additional skills-upgrading option for polytechnic and ITE graduates.
  8. Increase post-diploma Continuing Education and Training (CET) opportunities at our polytechnics to refresh and deepen the skills of polytechnic graduates.
  9. Support vocation-based deployments during National Service (NS) to help polytechnic and ITE graduates maintain their skills.
  10. Develop sector-specific skills frameworks and career progression pathways in collaboration with industry to support progression based on industry-relevant skills.

The ASPIRE committee made 10 recommendations but they can be summed up in a few words – the committee wants polytechnic and ITE students to “deepen their skills”.

But do you notice something that is glaringly missing in the report?

So, after upgrading the skills, will starting wages increase?

Polytechnic and ITE Graduates Still Earn Low Starting Wages

Last year, I wrote about the starting pay of Singaporeans at the different educational levels. According the The Straits Times, “a diploma holder’s average starting salary is $2,000, while that of a degree holder is $3,000“. An ITE student would earn about $1,300. And for someone with a secondary school education of below, the starting pay would be $800 last year or $1,000 (or so) this year.


This means that there is a wage gap of $2,000 between the starting pay of someone with a degree and someone who has a secondary school education and below.

And when you compare this with other developed countries, Singapore actually has the largest and most unequal wage gap among the developed countries.


Chart: OECD Indicators Education at a Glance 2013

Now, the above is only for starting salaries.

But according to the Ministry of Manpower, if you look at the wages of polytechnic and ITE graduates (earning around $2,000 and $1,300 respectively), you can see that their wages would remain stagnant or even drop over the course of their work life.

However, for someone with a degree, he/she is likely to see significant increases in their salaries across the course of their work life.

photo 4 (16)

Chart: Report on Wages in Singapore, 2011

Thus this means that over time, someone with a degree might see his/her salary rise to an average of $5,000 or so. However, for the other educational levels, the salary would remain stagnant.


And because of the wider disparity, this means that over time, the wage gap in Singapore would rise dramatically. And when compared with other developed countries, not only is the wage gap the widest, it would also be several times more unequal than the next country with the widest wage disparity.


Chart: OECD Indicators Education at a Glance 2013

Now, note that even though the wage gap is the widest in Singapore, it does not mean that degree holders are paid the highest salaries in Singapore, as compared to other developed countries.

In fact, when you compare Singapore with the other highest-income countries, Singaporeans actually earn the lowest wages.


Chart: International Labour Organisation Data collection on wages and income

So, what this means is that degree holders in Singapore are also being shortchanged by the PAP government. So, if degree holders are already being shortchanged, this means that diploma and ITE graduates are even worse off!

Thus even though the ASPIRE committee has made recommendations to “deepen the skills” of polytechnic and ITE graduates, the fact that there was no discussion on wage issues is very problematic.

Now, there is some token news which headlined that, “Outstanding non-graduate teachers could get graduate pay” and “Better career prospects for non-graduates in public service“, but this only refers to any wage increases down the road, such as when “Non-graduate teachers … have demonstrated outstanding performance or have deep experience”, where only then they will be treated as being on par with a degree graduate.

But this is very different from actually increasing the starting salaries of polytechnic and ITE graduates and as long as there is no effort to do this, this would mean that polytechnic and ITE graduates will have to wait several, if not many years, before they are able to see any catch-ups in their salaries. And if they don’t, their salaries will become stagnant or even fall as shown above.

Now, as I have written, at the current CPF interest rates of an average of 3%, a Singaporean would need to earn at least about $2,000 to be able to still buy a flat and retire later on.


And this is only if wages increase by 4% every year. But as you can see above, wages for someone who earns $2,000 is likely to stagnate or drop. This means that if a person wants to earn enough to buy a flat and retire, he/she might even need at least $2,500 or $3,000!

Today, there are 30% of Singaporeans who earn less than $2,000 and 50% of Singaporeans who earn less than $3,000.

Indeed, no wonder Associate Professor Tilak Abeysinghe had calculated that the bottom 30% of households have to spent 105% to 151% of their income, because they simply cannot earn enough to survive.


Similarly, Professor Mukul Asher had also estimated between 27% and 35% of Singaporeans would be living in poverty.

Singapore Poverty Rate Asher 2007

This would mean that Singapore would have the highest poverty rate among the developed countries and one of the highest poverty rate among the Asian countries.


In fact, because of the widest wage disparity, Singapore also has the highest income inequality among the developed countries.


And as I had written before, he PAP government has actually been pushing down the income inequality statistics over each reported period (from 2008 to 2010 to 2013), to create the perception that income inequality is not as high as it actually is in Singapore.

Gini Coefficient 2008 vs 2010 vs 2013

Now, if income inequality is a real problem in Singapore, instead of pretending that income inequality is not a problem by fudging the statistics, shouldn’t there be affirmative action to increase wages at the bottom so as to narrow the wage gap in Singapore?

Shouldn’t the government increase the starting salaries of polytechnic and ITE graduates? So again, why is this missing in the ASPIRE report?

In fact, what is even more disconcerting is that not only is the wage gap the widest in Singapore and not only do Singaporeans earn the lowest wages among the highest-income countries, the rich in Singapore actually earns the highest salaries among the developed countries and one of the highest in the world!


Chart: ECA Global Perspectives National Salary Comparison 2012

When you look at this in perspective, then something doesn’t seem quite right.

  1. Why are polytechnic and ITE graduates paid the lowest wages when the richest in Singapore pays themselves the highest salaries among the developed countries?
  2. Why does the PAP government create the largest wage gap in Singapore, among the developed countries?

In fact, from 1995, the income share that goes to the richest 10% in Singapore has risen from 30% to 42% in 2011.


And the richest 10% only started to keep getting richer and richer a year after PAP announced that they would peg the salaries of their own ministers to the rich in 1994.


Thereafter, the richest 10% got richer and richer, and the PAP politicians with it.

Not only that, you can see that every time the income inequality rises in one year, the share of income that goes to the rich will rise in the following year – if so, is the high income inequality in Singapore created by the PAP?


Is the PAP interested in ensuring that wages are kept low for non-degree graduates, so that only their cronies can get ahead?

Perhaps it would become clearer when we know that Singapore is actually ranked 5th on The Economist’s crony capitalism index, where it is the 5th easiest for someone to get rich in Singapore if they are affiliated to the PAP.


Now, the very idea of education is to also improve social mobility. But because Singapore has the income inequality among the developed countries, we thus have one of the lowest social mobilities among the developed countries.

Inequality vs Social Mobility

So, it is quite clear that as long as the government does not want to actually improve the lot of polytechnic and ITE graduates by actually increasing their wages, no matter what changes the PAP wants to hoodwink Singaporeans with, the end result is that for polytechnic and ITE students, they will continue to be marginalised by the PAP’s policies and it would be difficult for them to move up the social and economic ladder.

In fact, back to the question – which government would encourage its citizens not to get a degree?

As I have written, when you compare Singapore with the other countries, the number of students who enter public universities in Singapore is comparatively lower than other developed countries.

photo 5 (10)

Chart: Report of the Committee on University Education Pathways Beyond 2015 (CUEP)

Now, when you look at the Finnish education system for example, for students who choose to study diplomas or vocational institutions (similar to ITE), they can continue to proceed to study polytechnic degrees and even polytechnic master’s degrees.

Education system in Finland

So, instead of telling you that some people do not like to study academically and thus should not go to a university, the Finnish government actually does it differently and sets up universities that cater to vocational needs, so that all its citizens have an equal opportunity to pursue a degree education, in spite of their academic inclinations.

But when we look back at Singapore and realise how Singaporeans have to pay the second most expensive university tuition fees in the world, this again becomes highly problematic. Where is the equality? Where the poorest families can hardly afford to survive, how can they afford to send their children to university? Is university education being kept to the confines of a self-serving elite who wants to keep a degree education a pedigree for their kind?


Not only that, the PAP government would rather give more than 50% of international students scholarships, but would only give 6% of local students (including PRs) scholarships.


With the at least $354 million that the PAP gives to international students to study, and the $451 million surplus that the universities accumulate, this would have very easily allowed all Singaporeans to study in the public universities for free. So, why did the PAP government not want to do so?


Why would the PAP government pay overseas students to get a degree in Singapore but tell Singaporeans that it is not necessary to get a degree?

On top of that, in the agreement that the PAP government has signed with the Indian government, it allows the free-flow of workers from India into Singapore, without any protection for Singaporean workers. It also allows their spouses to freely come to Singapore to work. Does the PAP government also sign such an agreement with other countries to allow workers to come in freely to work as well?

photo 1 (6)

photo 2 (6)

Chart: Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) Between The Republic Of India And The Republic Of Singapore

If so, does this explain why the unemployment among degree holders have been going up, because of competition from foreign degrees?


Chart: World Development Indicators

Does this thus explain why the PAP government suddenly wants to encourage Singaporeans to think that it is not necessary to get a degree?

You can see that the number of migrants coming into Singapore started spiking up over the last decade.


And when the number of migrants coming into Singapore increased, so did the number of Singaporeans who earn less than $1,000.


In fact, it becomes clearer when you look at the proportion of Singaporeans who earn less than $1,000 – it started spiking up in 2004, when the floodgates were opened.


It is thus clear that because of the PAP government’s lax labour policies and unequal wage policies, this has caused a wage depression for the lowest-wage workers.

Has the PAP’s lax labour policies also contributed to the overflow of degree holders into Singapore, which compete with Singaporeans for jobs, and thus the PAP’s sudden about turn to encourage Singaporeans to believe that degrees are not important?

Thus when you look at it as a whole, exactly why does the PAP government suddenly want to encourage Singaporeans to believe that degrees are not important? Doesn’t this fly in the face of logic for a country which wants to advance into the knowledge economy?

Also, even if the government claims that some students might not be academically inclined and should thus go the polytechnic or ITE route, can the government not create polytechnic universities, as the examples of other countries have shown, so that Singaporeans can also receive a university education and get higher pay as well?

In addition, in spite of the government’s changes to the education system, they still have not made affirmative plans to increase the starting salaries of polytechnic and ITE graduates. If the government believes that they do not need a degree and yet it is clear that without a degree, a worker would be stuck with low pay, then shouldn’t the government also increase their starting salaries to account for this?

Otherwise, why stop Singaporeans from getting a university education, when they would otherwise not be able to earn enough to survive in Singapore?

The PAP government’s sudden announcement, with no head or tail, shows a lack of strategic vision as to how they want to shape the education system in Singapore. Why dissuade the pursuit of a university education if we want to advance into a knowledge economy? Why continue to pay low salaries to our polytechnic and ITE graduates, if we do not want them to pursue a university education?

What exactly is on the minds of the PAP government? What exactly are their real intentions behind dissuading Singaporeans from getting a university education? It simply doesn’t make sense. Or is this a knee-jerk response to bad policy planning (as has been shown above with the influx of migrants which depressed wages and increased unemployment, and the agreement with India and the lack of labour protection)?

Or is there an elite agenda to all these?

If so, we can be reminded by what the Vice-Principal of Jurong West Secondary School Pushparani Nadarajah had said that, “How many of our leaders and top officers who say that every school is a good school put their children in ordinary schools near their home? (Only) until they actually do so are parents going to buy (it).

Indeed, the PAP government might want Singaporeans to believe that Singaporeans do not need a university education, but how many of them would think that it is OK for their children not to go to universities?

If not, it would be very hypocritical for the PAP government to claim otherwise.

#ReturnOurCPF 4 Protest on 27 September 2014

On 27 September 2014, join us at the Hong Lim Park at 4pm at the #ReturnOurCPF 4 protest. Why has the PAP government depressed the wages of Singaporeans, while raising the cost of living in Singapore? How does the PAP government expect Singaporeans to survive, when they refuse to implement a minimum wage to protect Singaporeans?

Join us at the next protest as we speak up against the low wages and high cost of living in Singapore.

You can join the Facebook event page here.

Also, my first court case will be held on 18 September 2014, at 10.00am. It will be a full-day hearing.

#ReturnOurCPF 4 Poster 2 text

Return Our CPF 4 Poster 1b


    • Alan's Grandpa

      这么对待老年人,令人无比心酸,这是一件极大地坏事。 不用多说,李光耀的桌子上放的一尊孔子像,是拿來骗人的。李光耀一直是和儒家思想的仁爱公平善待人民的精髓对着干.

      So awful treat the elderly, it is very sad that this is a dramatically bad thing. Needless to say, Lee Kuan Yew ‘s table put a statue of Confucius, he display it just for cheating. in fact, Lee Kuan Yew has always been against the Confucianism’s essence , that a caring mercy to treat the people fairly

    • Alan's Grandpa

      We believe saw this picture, would increase the number of solidarity of want LKY hanged . Meanwhile Roy and Huihui speech were confirmed. PAP inhuman people to outrageous proportions! Hope that the international organizations came to investigate.

      PAP对人民惨无人道到了令人发指的地步 !希望国际组织调查。

    • Alan's Grandpa

      I hope my grandson, Alan also take a look at this photo, he must do a public apology for his bad behavior .

      • landragon123

        Yes Grandpa, talk some sense into that good for nothing child talk. How we spend our monies is our business. PAP wanted to order us around and tell us there look after US. Yes there look after our money for them to invest as there like and Mrs, Lee lost most of it.

        I know for sure Capital and Keppel are losing their pants in China on their properties. These are the reasons, you have no regards for Feng-shui by building LOGO building, Leaning tower and pregnant towers. Building especially for human living have to be straight, no bent or have not directions. It is only sick architect who did such design. For momunents it is OK but not for living homes.
        Look our 3 tallest buildings in Singapore all have flat tops and that is how Feng-shui is. Our early Singapore, LKY always consulted Hong Choon for everything he does. He never admitted for it will be a disgrace for him if he admit for in his mind, he is best and one is better than him? Is that right LKY?

  1. Alan's Grandpa

    希望把这些虐待人民的照片,统统拿出来出版反映新加坡人的一部画册。放在全世界各大机场的书店里. 提供人家在候机室里阅读. 没有钱的人, 没有工作的人, 有画册就是一切。你们拿到这里来, 我们来copy下来。齐心合作,死而无憾 !

    • Alan




      • Alan's Grandpa's neighbour

        PAP’s greatest skill is to clarify everything to be clarify , Unfortunately, eyes captured the truth, not ears.

  2. def

    Haha. Trust me. If LHL says everyone should get degree, Roy would have sung a totally different tune. It’s much easier to condemn other people’s ideas. In the Corporate world, we call these people Sharks. Everyone knows they are just noise makers.

  3. wtf

    all these grandpa, old fellow have themselves to be blame for monies detained.. go batam, geylang spend everything then cried poor..

    go chinatown u can see those ae pui tek, lau ah peks grabbing those teenage or young china girls walking around looking for hotel, like they are go shopping with grand daughter,

    this asshole roy knew the offside & encouraging these ah peks to manage their own monies to be target by their sexy “grand daugthers” to fuck around

      • landragon123

        Alan, I AM sure your is bustard or son of a prostitute. It is their money, after working all their life saving for the PAP, why can’t they go to Batam or Geylang. As long as they paid to the above 18, LHL cannot do anything to them.

        I AM sure those 50+ men charged for RAPE of a 17+ prostitute are just a scam by the Courts and the Lawyers. I know that we citizens are not allows to check others IC unless the laws is changed. May be BG TEO change it after he became Home Minister.
        If the law was we cannot checks IC of others, how can those 50+ men knows that the beautiful under 18 Prostitute is underage? Please forgive me if I AM wrong as if what I know is true, those peoples went to jail for not committed any crime???

        If going for women is wrong, than why ICA allows them in the first place. If these girls does no come in, where can the foreigner relief themselves and so for the Maids too. If Father of Churches need to relief with boys, why cannot retire man go for some fun and fuck?

    • wtf

      so after all the fuck dont cried poor… after spending all their $$ on cb then they ask for assistance mean we paid for their cb meal…

      how abt u land worm pay for their cb & neh feast since u’re so supportive simply u just use your cb mouth & afford nothing

      or maybe at least u can offer your cb mouth to them

  4. ramond

    PAP cant seem to do anything correct.
    Everyone should get degree -> Wrong.
    Everyone should not get degree -> Wrong
    For people who want to get degree, get a degree. For people who cant get a degree, if you are capable, you will enjoy similar kind of progression -> Wrong
    For people who get paid and yet choose not to work and do personal things instead, give warning and sack when no improvement -> Wrong.

  5. Steven

    Since your Prime Minister has been accused shameless not resign, how pretend it If nothing had happened ? After he stepped down, still can not escape a trial of the century.

  6. mingkit

    You are right. If Lee HL think a degree is not important, then why let his son take scholarship and degree. He never practice what he preached. Does that imply he is a hypocrite?

  7. dotseng

    Thank you very much for taking the time and trouble to explain a complicated subject with charts and graphs. It was most insightful and helpful.

  8. Edwin

    You confine an elephant in a liveable space and teach the animal tricks for food, the animal will be grateful to you for life. These trainable elephants will even learn new tricks if required. If you grant elephants freedom from their taskmasters, they will not leave their confines because freedom means anyhow shiit all over the place. They rather live in a squeaky clean environment like the pigs.

  9. kootuckee

    IF there are any idiots hereon, IS NOT ALAN, NOT THE ORACLE BUT THOSE who are still engaging them in conversation! these scumbag dogs need not attention and SADLY TO SAY, many comments here engaged them partaking of their bastardize voices to be heard and seen com’on guys leave these bastardize father mother fckers ‘alone’ AND LET THEM RANT here or jerk out here for they are born this way, their fore fathers did so and so is there future generations and generations, WHY FOR ALL CHRIST SAKE AND GOD SAKE, mix with these lowest creature ever to be evolved, right?!! and taint your own Good Spirit, dirty it and say, and play their game along…those comments in SUPPORT OF THIS BLOG AND ROY, you have better brain cells than THESE BASTARDIZE CREATURE SO, PLEASE HOR…if you want dignity … DO NOT MIX, TALK OR EVEN BE NEAR TO THESE PROSTITUES OF SINGAPORE AND EVEN SO…while their members of family keep legs open and let their Line Leader shaft bananas into every hole THERE AFTER REWARD THEM with some crumbs from the table with cream of sperm!!

  10. BBC

    I’m sure there is both husband wife in charge the a thing as a specific “GIC” ” Temasek” bureau. specific work on reports to the public , though generally that is a part of a larger offense Corruption. Like racketeering or persecute those against the government,

    people up everything for such a massive inter-agency effort, is that they’ll find enough to go forward with the case.
    Well done young man !

  11. Alan's Grandpa's neighbour

    1. In a country of Singapore, a few rich is false wealthy, only the most of citizens become rich is real first World.

    2. In our environment, only a handful of good people, Neither nor so good or not so bad person are majority. We appreciate the uniquely Roy , a contemporary enlightenment thinkers in Singapore. The most important in life is to recognize the times, historical developments, do an active promoter of the times.

    3. Roy’s articles speak louder than words, fool’s eyes are smarter than their ears. When people are desperate, Should stay on waiting ?

    4. Each time, society needs its own great figures, if no such person, Who would have thought the generations’s desire and dreams to change a bit ? for most of Singaporeans, change a new Prime minister is a good things.

    5. a bit change always better than non changes

  12. landragon123

    Singaporean, please do not worry too much as the HORSE is going for the goat soon. You will not see the Sick Dragon anymore, he have to leave, whether he likes it or not???

  13. Pingback: 20140928 NParks does an Intan, PAP’s wayang shown countless times already | likedatosocanmeh
  14. teoenming

    Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Want Teo En Ming Dead

    Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong want Teo En Ming dead. Lee Kuan Yew and Lee Hsien Loong want Teo En Ming to die young. I am only 36 years old. I do not want to die young. I want to live to a hundred years old and beyond!!!

    Teo En Ming has filed an official complaint against the Singapore Government at the United Nations Human Rights Council Branch and the International Criminal Court. Read the letter here:


    Teo En Ming’s Open Letter (Plea for Medical Help/Assistance) to World Leaders dated 27 Aug 2010. Read the letter here:


    Mr. Teo En Ming (Zhang Enming)
    Singapore Citizen
    Republic of Singapore

  15. Pingback: Singapore News Funnel
  16. Pingback: “New” PSLE Education Scoring System: Does it Change Anything? | The Heart Truths

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s