Amid the Covid-19 gloom, there was some cause for comfort last week when the annual joint graduate employment survey was released. Overall, 93.6 per cent of graduates last year were employed in full-time, part-time, temporary or freelance work within six months of completing their final examinations – up from 90.7 per cent in 2019. Those who found a full-time job earned a higher median starting salary compared with 2019. The authorities are also cranking up the supply of traineeships under the SGUnited Traineeships Programme. The aim is to increase this number to up to 35,000 from 25,000 currently. There are now about 5,400 trainees, with some 25,000 positions still available. The numbers are encouraging, given that these graduates entered the workforce in a pandemic year.
But a few red flags remain. Fewer students who graduated last year managed to secure a full-time job. Close to seven in 10 of those graduating from four local universities found permanent employment, down from 81.7 per cent in 2019. Over one in five fresh graduates said they were employed in part-time jobs or on traineeships. For now, extensive state support has staved off fears that they could form a lost generation, saddled with sustained unemployment and depressed wages. But whether weaknesses in the labour market and wages persist through the rest of the year and beyond is something that bears watching.