Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Unemployment woes for mature graduates 

The Ministry of Manpower reported yesterday that Singapore’s unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent in December. It also reported that employment rose by 27,500 in the fourth quarter and 66,200 for the whole of 2004.

In spite of such encouraging news, a letter published in The Straits Times today points out that many graduates remain unemployed.

With all the talk about jobs, unemployment and working till a “ripe old age”, it is indeed strange that I have been increasingly meeting qualified individuals who have been left on the shelf. These people are usually past 35, 40 years of age and have post-graduate degrees... [Many] I have spoken to are left jobless, some for more than a year!

I am baffled as to why these qualified individuals are jobless... It seems that the mindset in the corporate world in Singapore is to hire young/younger graduates, leaving these very qualified batch of people out in the cold. If this trend continues, it looks like experience counts for nothing and upgrading of skills is useless...
For older workers, getting them to fit into an organisation is often the main challenge, not qualification. In fact, high qualification sometimes means high employee expectation that may be difficult to meet. Experience sometimes means entrenched mindsets that may be difficult to change.

Furthermore, much of the experience gained by workers is intangible and difficult for prospective employers to assess. That is why networking is so important in getting jobs. Someone who knows you is much more likely to offer you a job than someone who does not.

One alternative for the mature unemployed is entrepeneurship. High qualifications and experience may come in handy in setting up a consultancy.

The plight of the unemployed is made worse by the lack of unemployment benefit in Singapore. Unemployment benefit, unfortunately, would not be a panacea either. To prevent abuse, most countries that provide unemployment benefits have introduced or are introducing conditions on their disbursement. This can lead to situations like that in the following Herald Sun report (also reported in The Straits Times):

Just lie back and think of dole
A 25-year-old woman is risking her unemployment benefits after refusing to be a prostitute.

The woman, an unemployed information technology worker, was contacted by her local job centre telling her an employer was interested in her “profile”, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported. She was not told who the employer was... Only when she phoned did she discover she was being recruited by a brothel...

Under Germany’s welfare laws, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit...
Singapore’s unemployed don’t face this problem. I’m not sure they’re thankful for it, though.


Singapore is basically a government sanctioned sweatshop. That is why the government is so reluctant to pass laws that prevent discrimination or protect the rights of the workers.
Where else in the developed world can an employer choose not to hire older workers, workers of the "wrong" race or pregnant women?
Wake up people, you are the country's resources and if you are well passed your "used by date", you should just dig a hole in the ground and bury yourself. On second thought, maybe you should just go to Malaysia to do that. We may need the land to build another shopping mall...

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