Singapore

Higher skills likely to bring more pay in S’pore than in other countries: Survey

Higher skills likely to bring more pay in S’pore than in other countries: Survey
TODAY file photo
Published: 4:00 AM, June 29, 2016
Updated: 4:05 PM, June 29, 2016

SINGAPORE — Employees with a higher level of skills, such as in literacy and numeracy, are more likely to draw higher wages in Singapore compared with other countries, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows.

Singapore has the highest percentage change in wages along with increases in the years of education among the 34 economies surveyed by the OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies, the findings of which were released yesterday.

Every additional three years of education is equivalent to a more than 30 per cent increase in wages in Singapore. For countries such as the United States, the figure is around 20 per cent, while the OECD average is less than 15 per cent for the same increase in the years of education.

Speaking to the media yesterday, Dr Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s education and skills chief, said: “You can see employers in Singapore pay attention to formal qualifications ... (it is a) big predictor for employment.”

Mr Ng Cher Pong, the Workforce Development Agency’s CEO, noted the findings showed there were “good returns to skills”. “A good education system will result in skills being acquired ... employers value those skills and are prepared to pay for those skills,” he said.

However, Dr Schleicher pointed to the differences in skill levels, even if a worker holds a tertiary qualification. For example, data showed that a Japanese high school graduate could be as highly skilled in terms of literacy proficiency as the average tertiary-educated person in Singapore, he said.

Dr Schleicher added that there was a need to “think harder about a skills system” to help employers recognise and reward skills better, as people do acquire skills in life that are not always reflected in formal qualifications.

Among the other findings, the OECD noted that even if Singapore has a larger pool of immigrants than the countries that took part in the study, this does not have an impact on the population’s overall skills level.

The majority of the workers here are also “well-matched” with their jobs, which Dr Schleicher said shows that employers here are good at extracting value from their workers.

This is borne out from data which showed that adults here use skills, such as problem-solving or reading and writing in their jobs, more frequently than the OECD average. For example, in terms of skills in information and communications technology, when participants here were asked how often they used these skills, the score is 2.89, higher than the OECD average of 2.41.

But the OECD noted that while 9.9 per cent of the participants here are identified as over-skilled, it is still below the OECD average of 10.8 per cent.

Dr Schleicher, who noted Singapore’s strong reputation in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, said he was “surprised” by the disparity in skills between the older and younger generation here.

“While Singapore does well in its current education system, those who didn’t acquire high levels of skills in the past also didn’t get the opportunity to upgrade,” said Dr Schleicher.

He acknowledged that Singapore’s SkillsFuture, aimed at promoting lifelong learning and the apprenticeship model, will eventually help level up those who start off without a degree, as seen in the case of European nations such as Germany.