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Non-Singaporean graduates struggling to find work in Singapore

Compounding the situation is that international graduates in Singapore can only take positions with a minimum salary of S$4,500 so that they can qualify for an Employment Pass

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Singapore—Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s international graduates have been struggling to find work, according to an article in thepienews.com, a site for news and business analysis for professionals in international education.

In addition to international graduates in Singapore struggling to find jobs in the last four months,  they are also afraid that they need to repay the government back as much as S$100,000 in order to break their post-graduation work agreement.

The government’s Tuition Grant Scheme, while available to all students pursuing tertiary education in Singapore, requires that all non-Singaporean students (including Singapore Permanent Residents) who qualify for a Tuition Grant sign a Tuition Grant Agreement, which contractually obliges them to work in a Singapore entity for three years upon graduation.

But the economic fallout from the pandemic has made finding jobs more difficult, and non-Singaporean graduates are now concerned that they will not be able to pay rental fees or support themselves due to the “worst recession since independence” that Singapore is now experiencing. In the second quarter of this year, the GDP of Singapore contracted by over 12 per cent.

Making their situation more difficult is that the international graduates in Singapore can only take positions within a specific pay threshold so that they can qualify for an Employment Pass, which is a minimum of S$4,500 after being raised from S$3,900 on September 1. The average pay a graduate receives is S$3,600 per month.

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Non-Singaporean graduates are at a further disadvantage because employers have been motivated through the SGUnited Traineeships Programme to hire Singaporeans, which offers them subsidies.

The PIE News reports that jobs once offered to graduates have now been reclassified as trainee positions because of the programme.

Non-Singaporean students have a few options when their job hunt takes longer than expected. They may apply for an extension of the job hunt period, or they may buy out of the Tuition Grant Agreement. The latter, however, is a prohibitively costly choice.

The report added that about four per cent of non-Singaporean students default on their bond obligations each year. Last year, Ong Ye Kung, Singapore’s then-Education Minister, was called to defend government expenditures on foreign students, as some believe that too much money is spent on them.

The PIE News quotes Michael Bartlett from local education consultancy firm Alumno as saying, “There was quite a bit of rhetoric around the number of foreigners employed in Singapore over the election period, and with Covid there’s a more difficult job market.

It’s right, I think, for any country to prioritise their own workforce. But I think Singapore is always very balanced and understands the contributions made to the economy by foreign workers.

There have been reported cases of students granted EPs on lower salaries. Everybody’s aware of the difficulty of the Covid situation.

I don’t know if there’ll be formal changes to the scheme, but knowing the Singapore authorities, they’ll be compassionate about individual student cases.” -/TISG

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