Singapore int’l graduates struggling to find work to meet bond obligations

The Singapore government runs a Tuition Grant Scheme available to all students studying in higher education in the country. To qualify, international students must agree to work in the country for three years following graduation.

“Singapore is very balanced and understands the contributions made to the economy by foreign workers”

However, according to The Straits Times, many of the international graduates they spoke with had been unable to find a job in the last four months, and are worried about paying rent and continuing to support themselves.

Singapore is going through what has been called the “worst recession since independence”, with the country’s GDP contracting by 12.6% in the second quarter of 2020.

The problem is further compounded by the graduates needing to take jobs above a certain salary threshold to apply for an Employment Pass.

The minimum monthly salary to qualify for an EP is currently S$4,500 (£2,557), after being raised from S$3,900 (£2,216) on September 1. The average graduate salary in is S$3,600 (£2,047).

Additionally, the launch of the SGUnited Traineeships Programme in June has incentivised employers to hire citizens by offering subsidies, and once available graduate jobs are now being advertised as traineeships.

Those that don’t find work can apply to have their job search time limit extended, but another option is buying out of the agreement, which is prohibitively expenses.

Around 4% of international students default on their bond obligations annually, and the government was forced to defend spending on international students last year.

“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,” Michael Bartlett, who runs the Singapore-based education consultancy Alumno, told The PIE News.

“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,” he continued.

“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,” Bartlett added.

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