Risk of high-skill, low-wage jobs in future

Risk of high-skill, low-wage jobs in future

THIS is the trajectory that Singapore wants its young people to be on: higher education leading to higher productivity and higher incomes.

But in an article for the Civil Service College here, two British scholars have questioned if that relationship still holds.

They point to the education explosion that has taken place worldwide, and especially in the emerging economies, where they estimate university enrolment has doubled since the mid-1990s.

In 2009, some 179 million students had access to the same developments in science, technology and business previously reserved for students in Western universities, write Professor Phillip Brown of Cardiff University and Professor Hugh Lauder of the University of Bath.

Between 2004 and 2007, they interviewed 125 companies and 65 policymakers in seven countries - Britain, the United States, Germany, China, India, South Korea and Singapore - to identify trends that would have an impact on education, jobs and incomes in a big way.

The result was a 2012 book titled The Global Auction: The Broken Promises Of Education, Jobs And Incomes.

In it, they warn that the majority of graduates could end up in skilled jobs paying modest wages because of a global oversupply of degree holders.

They add that the global expansion of higher education would be less of a problem for Western societies and countries like Singapore, if emerging economies failed to match the quality standards of the developed economies.

But that is not so.

"The bad news for the developed economies is that the second trend is a quality-cost revolution - resulting in a rapid increase in productivity levels and quality standards, and at lower costs than in the West, following the application of best practice in emerging economies," they write.

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