Is a degree still relevant in the future economy? To me, a degree is of relevance now, tomorrow and for the many years to come. Well let’s set that aside and break down what a degree is for, how degree holders are affected now and how will it be like in the coming years.
Well let’s dig a bit into the past, degree holders used to be sought after in the 1980s and 1990s as it wasn’t as common. How would I in the 1980s work towards getting an University degree? I would have to go through the 6-4-2 education system. 6 years of Primary, 4 years in Secondary school and 2 years of Pre-university education. Now let’s see who gets a chance at going after a degree, in 2016 there are only 52.8% of Singaporeans born in 1991 and earlier holding a Post-Secondary Qualification. What about now? In 2016, 97% of the people born from 2001 and later have a Post-Secondary Qualification. With this 44.2% increase there is a higher chance of degree holders in Singapore now than in the 1980s.
What about the people that actually get one? In 1990s there only about 77,000 degree holders. With a steady increase that resulted in 814,200 degree holders in 2016. If the trend continues, soon Singapore will have more than a million degree holders. Take note that our current population size as of end-December 2016 is at 5.6073 million people. Let’s put that into scale for you, for every 56 people, there are 8 degree holders, sitting here there are about 20 over people right, out of 21, 3 of you will get a degree. Okay that might look like a small fraction, but in the 1980s the population would be 3.047 million and that would have meant only 2 out of a 100 people would have a degree, which means out of the whole Mass Communication cohort we would only have 2 people holding a degree at the end of the day.
So what is a degree for? Does that guarantee my future? Why do we work so hard for this piece of paper? Well the answer is for most us a well-paid job.I asked Trixie Neo, a current undergrad in Bachelor Of Arts in NUS to tell me what her opinion on this is. I quote “Most people in this generation are degree holders but this just means that it is harder for people to find jobs since everyone is on the same level.” Seeing our statistics, it is true that the level of playing field is soon becoming quite similar for the people in Singapore.
Let’s look at the workforce, but before we look at the unemployment rate of Singapore you need to understand this, why is there no such thing as a 0% unemployment rate, well this could be due to people switching jobs or graduates joining the labour force so therefore some degree of unemployment will be expected throughout. Looking at data from 2016-2017 Q3, according to the Ministry of Manpower(MOM) there is a steady increase in unemployment for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents in 2016 alone. Well, even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong noted in his annual May Day speech, that unemployment increased last year (2016) and even with better growth in 2017 there will be risks of increase in unemployment rate.
However, I believe that a degree is important as Singapore has an advanced economy which attracts employers who seek high or specialised skills in a person. Even though the value of a degree was higher back in the 1980s, I believe a degree is of relevance now, tomorrow and for the many years to come.