By: 永久浪客/Forever Vagabond

NUS communications graduate, Elizabeth Boon, is a fresh graduate and has a hard time trying to find a job. At her graduation photo shoot, she chose to go to the CBD carrying a cardboard sign “Hire me leh” to take her picture:
1Her photo struck a chord with many other fresh graduates who are also having a hard time getting a job.
Official figures show that job vacancies continue to fall with the number of job seekers outstrips the number of openings for the first time since June 2012. The rise in unemployment hit resident degree-holders the hardest. Their unemployment rate rose to 4.3 per cent in June, the highest level since 2009.

So far, Ms Boon is surviving on freelancing work. She has yet to secure a permanent job.

“There are dry spells when I have to watch my spending,” she lamented. “If my friends ask me to go out for drinks, I’ll join them but I won’t drink.”

“I’m lucky because I don’t have financial commitments for the near future, and my family does not rely on me to support them. But that’s not the case for many of us,” she added.

Another graduate, Kenji Kwok, 25, from NTU is making do with wedding and documentary photography while he waits to hear from employers. He and his girlfriend recently put down a five-figure deposit for a BTO flat. He is under pressure to get a permanent job.

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“At least I’m not the only one in this situation, but it also means the competition is stiffer,” he commented about his predicament.

Bernadette Lee, 56, who is currently unemployed, commented that she has to lower her expectations. “I have to lower my expectations. I was a manager but now I may have to settle for an executive position,” she said.

IT project manager also can’t find jobs

Ex-IT project manager, Leonard Lau, 46, is going for courses to upgrade himself.

Mr Lau, who spent 17 years working in an MNC and earned about $10,000 a month, was retrenched in March this year.

“I was confident at first, because I used to get calls from headhunters,” he said. “But when I was out of work, the market went silent.”

PMETs who are aged 40 and above are increasingly finding it difficult to get back to the workforce once they are retrenched. Mr Lau himself has applied to 50 organisations through headhunters since he lost his job. He only got eight interviews with no results.

It’s especially hard for those who used to earn high salary. When a potential employer found out about their previous high salary, the employer will usually shun them, as in the case of Mr Lau.

“After that (finding out about his previous hight salary), they usually don’t call back,” said Mr Lau.

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It is a difficult time for his family. His wife, 45, was also out of job. She was also an IT manager. They have 2 sons, aged 14 and 16. On top of that, Mr Lau has to support his elderly mother, aged 81 and his wife has to support her father in his 60s. His wife’s father, a construction supervisor, also lost his job.

His wife was forced to switch to the education industry and take a 40% pay cut in order to bring in money for the family. Meanwhile, Mr Lau has no choice but to do freelancing work like conducting mathematics enrichment classes for school kids to survive.

He has gone for training courses but they have not given him a discernible edge. “When I was taking those courses, there were thousands of people doing the same thing,” he said.

NTUC Patrick Tay: I hear there are jobs

Meanwhile, NTUC assistant secretary-general and MP Patrick Tay said he “hears” there are jobs available.

He said that a mismatch of skills has prevented jobs from being filled.

“For example, we hear there are more than 15,000 vacancies in the tech and IT sector. But the problem is, do we have enough experienced persons available… to fill those jobs?”

The Government has been rolling out scheme after scheme to tackle this mismatch, from a new virtual career fair in the last two weeks to better connect employers and job seekers online, to plans to transform entire industries.

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But with 15,000 vacancies in IT sector as noted by Patrick Tay, a 17-year IT veteran like Mr Lau still can’t get a decent IT job.

Start revoking EPs from foreign PMETs working in Singapore

With regard to NTUC Patrick Tay’s comments, a netizen has this to say, “Why must Mr. Patrick Tay have to ‘hear there are more than 15,000 vacancies’?”

“Hearsay without adequate substantiation is empty talk and we certainly do not expect an elected Labour MP to administer policies based on hearsay,” he added.

“How does Mr Lau’s case reconcile with what Mr. Patrick Tay said? 17 years of IT experience in an American MNC and if that’s not good enough experience, than what is?”

The netizen wants MOM to start revoking EP from foreign PMETs who are working in Singapore.

“This is the moment when what is required of the Government is firmness and determination to look truth in the face to systematically and selectively revoke the equivalent number of Employment Passes issued to fit the number of local PMETs under-employed and unemployed,” the netizen proposed.

“With the hundred of thousands of foreigners on Employment Passes, this is a breeze in fixing the problem. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”