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What has university places got to do with compulsory annuities?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on September 5, 2007

By Leong Sze Hian

According to the article “Fourth varsity: Third time’s the charm?” (Straits Times, September 1), 23.5 per cent of each cohort makes it to the local universities, “But what is significant though is that up to half of each cohort do end up with degrees, whether from here or overseas”.

It also cited the case of a couple who had to clean out their savings, mortgaged the family’s three-room flat, and deferred plans for the mother to retire from her job as a factory operator, in order to send their children overseas for a university education, because there wasn’t enough places in the local universities.

Since bout 26.5 per cent of the cohort had to obtain a university degree, other than at the local universities, how many parents, like the couple above, may have ended up with insufficient funds for retirement?

To what extent has the “panel to review the university sector’s” decision in January 2003, to drop the idea of a fourth university recommended by the panel of international experts in January 2001, and the Government committee in July 2001, contributed to the state of retirement funding now (here, here and here) and into the future?

It is interestingly co-incidental that the then (January 2003) new minister of state, Dr Ng Eng Hen, who led the panel, is now the Minister of Manpower, who is proposing the changes to the CPF system.

Until such time that the much anticipated clarification (“University places – numbers don’t add up”) by the minister of state for education on university places for foreigners takes place, perhaps the effect and implications of our foreign university places and scholarships policy, on Singaporean students and their parents’ retirement funding, may be analysed and debated further.

So, what has university places and compulsory annuities, got to do with jobs creation?

One of the main reasons given in January 2003, for dropping the recommended fourth university, was that “In 2003, we (only) created 20,000 jobs a year. This quarter (second quarter 2007), we created 60,000 jobs. That’s the contrast you are talking about: in one quarter alone, we created three years’ worth of jobs compared to 2003”.

Well, on the subject of contrast, what was the percentage of jobs created that went to Singaporeans in 2003, compared to now? (link)

So, instead of waiting (for about 7 years already since the fourth university was first mooted, and another 8 years until 2015) – “The commitment has been given, subsidised university places for 30 per cent by 2015, and a high-quality education… we will deliver” – why not review our foreign student policy now?

Who knows? A single stroke may kill 2 birds with 1 stone – the university places problem and the CPF problem!

Read more of Sze Hian’s writings here.


6 Responses to “What has university places got to do with compulsory annuities?”

  1. Gerald said

    It’s a shame that so many parents have to fork out large sums of money to send their children overseas to study just because there aren’t enough places in local unis for qualified Singaporeans. Meanwhile the govt continues to dole out scholarships to foreign students just to make Singapore an “education hub”. [Read: Economic development is more important than social development.]

    I agree that one very good way of ensuring that people have enough money for their retirement is to make it cheaper for them to send their kids to university. Not only will they have more savings on retirement, but their uni educated kids will be in a better financial position to take care of them.

    I have previously written about this in two articles:

    Education is the best social welfare


    Increasing access to higher education imperative for Singapore

  2. RaymondChua said

    I’m not sure why gov call it nation building where in fact it is foreigner building.

  3. trulysingapore said

    We all understand the need to control the number of university places to at least ensure there are enough jobs for graduates.

    In 2003, many graduates couldn’t find jobs and ended up doing masters degrees instead. Many had to wait for almost a year before they could land a job. In other words, the 20,000 jobs created in 2003 wasn’t enough to go around and the current level of university placement has to be supported by perhaps 50,000 job creations?

    Still, 60,000 X four quarters = 240,000. That’s 10 times the number we had in 2003. Yes, with this kind of figure, I full agree with Mr Leong that we can afford more university places.

    Having said that, I also feel that we should be mindful that we’re having a bull run now. The bull run may run its course. When that happens, job creation will go back down. Hence, probably shouldn’t train as many graduates as can be supported by the economy right now.

  4. […] 4th University – Onlinecitizen:What has university places got to do with compulsory annuities? […]

  5. Lai CF said

    They are so fond of QUOTA.

    Int eh 70s, during our Industrialisation, the quota was:
    1 Engineer = 10 Technicians

    And in the 80s, PAP was fond of pintign out that if you got too many uni graduates, you will end up in London like a bus conductor is a degree holder as well.

    Now in 21st Century, why not?
    As it means that there is no income gap where an engineer and bus conductor is mor eor less earning the same pay. And mine you, those British union workers int eh printign industry in the 80s were earning more than engineers as well.

    But studying is not merely for economic reasons or for jobs, some of us study for the love of study, to follow our hearts, to fulfil our dream of getting a degree.
    Then, if getting enough univeristy palces are only hard-headed decision to meet our economic demand, why mouthed so much on our “natural resources are our people” and no chance is given to them to develop to their fullest potential?

    Enistein was a late developer.
    So was WInston Churchill.
    Maxwell retired and secluded in his cottage, wrote that masterpeise on electromagnetism.

    It looks like it is still a “one strike you are out” policy esepcially their is no second chance to get a univeristy degree if you are not “A” Level students or a merit-certificate hodlers from polytechnic.

    They talked so much of “one market” but this univeristy stuff is still “closed” and you let drones like Ng Eng Hen in 2003 to “determine” on why a 4th university is not required?

    Esepcially nwhen I attended one fo those FBU Forums, I think in 2004 or 2005, when the quota was more or less 20% and SOuth Korea at that time was 50%.

    We aspired tor reach Swiss Standard of Living 1999…….how many universities in Switzerland in 1999?

    One clear danger for SIngpaore:
    Children, especilaly from English-educated families, that are send to study oversea tend not to return to Singapore.

  6. Alan Wong said

    I just wonder whether the MIW has ever considered the more immediate needs of CPF contributors who upon reaching the age of 55, would need the monies more urgently whether it is to sponsor their kid’s tertiary education or to start a small business or for that matter to improve on the family’s standard of living during the period that they are from 55 ~ 65/67 years.

    So for those who kick the bucket during this period where they are not allowed to withdraw the minimum sum, is it fair to them they they are not even given the opportunity to enjoy their hard earned savings during their last days.

    To set a policy based on the assumption that one would have a 50% chance of surviving more than 85 years of age is really too much for the asking.

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