S$3,800 to S$4,000 Starting Salary for Fresh ICT Engineering Graduates in Public Service – What do you think?

This week
in Parliament, DPM Teo announced that the starting salary for engineers joining
the Public Service upon graduation will start from S$3,800 a month, and those
in information and communications technology (ICT) from S$4,000, an average
increase of 20 per cent. Existing remuneration of public service engineers will
also be reviewed and raised if necessary. Reasons cited were high demand and
low supply for ICT skills. The new engineers are required in public service
(E.g. PUB, HDB etc) mainly to support infrastructure and development needs
including transport and water systems, and the rest to support Smart Nation
efforts. Foreigners hiring is also not discounted if there are insufficient
Singaporeans to meet the demand. Refer here for more news. 

With this raise in salary, fresh ICT engineering graduates
heading to public sectors will be immediately among the median salary S$40-50k
p.a. range in Singapore. Refer to here for “How Much Do People Earn”. If including
bonuses, it will surpass the median income bracket. That is extremely good
salary, when their work experience is virtually inexistence.  
Wait a minute…..
So how about the fresh engineers heading to private
sector huh?
Or how about the existing engineers in private
Are they forgotten, after already contributed to the
economy and in one way another attracting the foreign investments?
Frankly, I wasn’t even sure that fresh graduates
should be labeled as an engineer without any working experience to speak of.
So is increasing the benchmark pay (in public sector
only!) the sole effective way to attract engineering talents, or should we also
consider how as a society we should appreciate and giving credit to the work an
engineer has done?
more Singaporeans switching from private to public sectors
I had seen and heard enough of many private
companies losing local bred Singapore talents to the public sector over the
years. Yes, this trend is also happening large MNCs in private sector, let
alone local operated SMEs who struggles badly to attract talents.
The choice of public over private sector is not just
for fresh engineering graduates in relation to the salary package. It also becomes
very relevant to PMETs who had worked many years in private sectors being
bogged down by extreme extended working hours, or unequal work load-pay
The skew
of Private versus Public sectors
Apparently I am in National Service (NS) this week! For
all Singaporeans who had served NS in SAF, it needs no
explanation of how “Efficient” the SAF is, as far as manpower optimization is?
During the two weeks stint, I spoke to many campmates.
From Oil and Gas to statutory board
One of them, an engineer recently made a career
switched from private to public sector after working for more than a decade in the
private O&G sector. The several months in the public service now prompted
him in saying things like “no job satisfaction” and a total “waste of time”.
I was told this is in contrast to his previous
private sector job in a dynamic environment though hectic but instilling higher
levels of ownership and definitely can learn so much more! Unfortunately he
does not have any choice due to the current dire state of the O&G sector.  However he assured that once the O&G
industry recovered, he will want to be back to the private sector!
From software company to statutory board
Another campmate who is also an engineer background
transit from private to public sector, having worked approx. equal number years
in each sector also lament on similar things surfacing in public sector such as
to lack of job satisfaction, inefficiencies, crazy politics. To sum it up – “stupidity”
in the public sector, according to him.  
I was told the sector leap, back then was mainly because he wanted to have more regular hours in work after starting a family
and have kids. Last year, he wanted to go back to the private sector and made
several applications but the economic conditions was making it tougher,
and hence dropping the idea. While already being sicked and tired about his
current job scope, his solution is to divert the attention to his family and
kids and to treat his current job as merely a source of income with completely
zero drive!
The two examples aforementioned are just some of the
many examples that I had heard from people I met/know who had transited from
private to public sectors. The feedbacks are pretty much aligned.
The reverse where working class is transiting from
public to private sector is comparatively less common. Another interesting
finding within my social circle, is that people who have been all along in public
sector tend to have lesser complaints about their jobs, but in some cases lesser drives also!
Happier with more work life balance and stability
That said, NOT everyone is complaining. There are
many good perks working in the civil service.
One of the most commonly heard reasons for the
transition from private to public sector is work life balance for young family
having kids. Besides, there is also good work benefits for their family, work
hours are shorter and definitely less stressful, so why not? As for salary, if
you can compare the amount of work done relative to the income return, public
service definitely offers a much better deal!

When my friends and relatives gathered and discussed
about topics of economic crisis globally, normally NONE of my friends who are from
the public sectors (except those who
invest in stocks
) seem to be concerned or showing much interest.
The simple fact is almost all agree that it is “iron
rice bowl” in government sector. Within my circle, I know many friends in the
private sector are worried about economic downturn. In retrospect,
I know friends in the public sector discussing about cars and property to
It is definitely nothing wrong, but it certainly exemplifies
the disparity between the two sectors.
to question of choosing private or public sectors, I really think it depends on
individual needs. Both sectors have their equal pros and cons.
Rolf ‘s Thoughts
To sum it up and responding to the topic of raising
the starting pay of fresh engineering ICT graduates by 20% in public sector, frankly
I am not a supporter of it.
In my humble opinion, while we need to attract potential
talents in public engineering ICT sector, it is definitely NOT doing any good from the point
of HUMILITY for fresh graduates. Perhaps many of the fresh graduates (even
those not in engineering) will be thinking,
“what the company
can offer to them, rather than what they can offer to the company!”
Well, I can understand the pain of engineers (since
I started as one) compared to their peers in the financial industry, but
Expectations of newcomers into the society will be
adversely higher and their confidence levels will be artificially inflated due
to the higher salary rather than in relation to their work ability.
my biggest worry will be for those fresh into the working society to think as
“Public sector = “Elite”
Singaporeans with higher starting salaries and benefits, plus work life balance
and stability even during recession.
Private sector =
“Slogged” Singaporeans possibly doing more for less, and eventually even losing
many potential positions to foreign talents, or getting retrenched during
sectors will you choose if you are a fresh graduate who has no idea about the
private sector world? Then how is it possible for foreign companies or SMEs in Singapore to
attract local-bred talents?
Last but
not least, it is common and inevitable that in a
statutory board, where the organization is usually bigger to
have more inefficiencies. Nonetheless, I consider Singapore public sectors already
extremely organised with superb systems and processes. That is if I compare to horror stories heard during my travel
about the inefficiencies in other countries’ public sector. And worst – corruption!

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20 thoughts on “S$3,800 to S$4,000 Starting Salary for Fresh ICT Engineering Graduates in Public Service – What do you think?

    1. Hi EH,

      As a kid, I use to dream of becoming a police inspector.


      Every job has its own problems. It is always "you see m e good, I see you good!"

  1. Yes is a bit high. I will be curious on the numbers to be hired and how long they can continue in service. If one is able to join Civil Service, one should. That's the whole idea.

    1. Hi Cory,

      Hmm… wonder what it will be like if every Sg fresh grad is thinking of joining Public service only….. Then public sector = Singaporeans!
      Private sector = Foreigners!

      Maybe 2/3 n 1/3 rule should applies eventually for Sporeans n Foreigners resp, in both sectors! More balance n hopefully more efficiency..

  2. wow, very high starting pay! it is almost double of what i started working donkey years ago..
    but not sure how sustainable, as it, maybe they will just get the "standard" yearly increment, unless they are on the fast track program.

    personally, i think its good to try both sectors, if that's possible… then you can compare, otherwise, it will always be a "grass on the other side is also greener" thing..

  3. Both sectors are different and rightly so, the public sector should stop trying to emulate the private sector and the private sector stop comparing with the public LOL

    Do govt sector pay market rate? If u ask me, in terms of remuneration, u just need to be the top 30 percentile and your pay is very comparable to the private sector, because we are talking about bond like payment while private sector work like equity. Of course equity return more but there is volaity and risk of capital loss.

    U like bonds or equity?

    My point is, it doesn't matter, but comparing the two is …

    1. Hi SI,

      It is true n I agree with u bcos each sector has their own gd/bad points, cannot compare. More importantly which one is suitable for us as I pointed out.

      My concern is not which sector to go or what is the pay structure like.

      The main concern is the eventual big disparity of both sectors in terms of people they attract.

      Consider a scenario where more n more "scholar-like" Sporeans into public sector and more foreigners or those Sporeans who have deemed poorer result heading to private sector.

      The nature of work for both sector is diff n both has their merits.

      The civil service is starting as small part of a big system following processes serving the govt, grow slowly n steadily for long term goal that sometimes u are unable to see, but doing great for nation building.

      The other is like a "fire-fighting down to earth war zone" where u learn the practicality of survival n outsmarting competitors.

      The last thing we want is unbalance skills of our people, where majority of Sporeans only eventually learn to serve the nation on the back of govt support, while more foreigners learn the competitive way of survival with foreign investment.

      Hence I think a 2/3 and 1/3 Sporeans n foreigners in both sectors should be a more appropriate the way of the future.

  4. Rolf,

    Let me be very brutally honest here. I am from the govt sector, and I believed a significant number (20-30%) is overly paid, overly protected and color blind.

    That is why the govt sector is embracing people from the private sector, hoping that they shed some light … I know a few of them who came to school system and left … Some of them holding very high positions outside and came in not because of the money but wanted to give back to society (education is kind of giving back to society)

    I manage to talk to 2 of these people and know them closer, they all told me they can't get used to the system here, and pointed out some very valid questions.

    I also do think our system has some ills, just like the private sector has some ills too.

    But is regulating the "Singapore quota" the right way to go ?? Scholarships are offered by both private and public sectors …

    Let's leave the scholars aside first, I always associate them with academics ( like those who touted market efficient theory )and dun really hold them in high regards

    The pendulum has swung because of the "market private forces", it used to be teaching is a "dirty job" my time, they basically offering free school fees and even a salary if u are willing to teach. I jumped on it m, since that what I wanted anyway, but is there I high influx? Nope? Still desperately looking for teachers. It is the 4th round of "adjustments" that we start not to have recruitment problems

    Maybe for engineers, the lump 4 rounds into 1 Lol

  5. Hi SI,

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I reckon Teaching is very different from other public sectors that I am referring to in the article. I had wanted to include this "disclaimer" initially. With all respect to teachers, if I had a choice, that is the only sector I wanted to be in from private sector now! 🙂 I was giving tuition for a continuous 10 year period.

    A lot of my friends are teachers and frankly while there r system inefficiency, the main focus is still really on teaching the kids! So far, I think Sg education system has progress extremely well, compared to other sectors of civil service. Kudos to the teaching staffs!

    As for scholarships, I think u misunderstand. I mentioned "scholar-like" which mean those with good results and not scholarships which company pay for their fees etc. It's not abt regulating quota of fresh grads or scholars which u prolly misunderstood again, but what I mean is the balance of foreigners and Singaporeans in both sectors or people.

    Many Singaporeans (excluding me!) in the private sector are very frustrated on the foreigner issues at work, which eventually is not gg to do good for Sg, bcos we still need foreign workforce!

    So the gradual target of 2/3 Singaporeans and 1/3 foreigners for both sectors is still something I relish it to happen.

    I think we will see in trend in future that civil service will hire more foreigners which I am quite supportive as long as the job is not sensitively harmful to our nation.

    Anything for the good of Sg and our future generation, I m on for it!!! 🙂

  6. I have been following your blog for your some time. Good work!

    This article is close to my heart. I have been an engineer throughout my career and I have personally seen the decline of the electronics sector in Singapore since the day I graduate.

    I have witnessed several smart and hard-working people losing their jobs because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. I believe you are seeing the same things today in the oil and gas industry. When our students see bad things happening to good people, they will not choose engineering as their choice of study. There are lots of negative online posts about engineers becoming taxi drivers after losing their jobs in their 40s.

    I agree with you that throwing money at the problem is not going to solve the engineer shortage problem. Firstly, the starting pay of engineers has usually been on the high side. It is really what happens 5-10 years down the road. Engineers may start off with a high salary but if they hit a ceiling and going nowhere 5 years later, many of them are going to switch career. Many engineers who switched to oil and gas or banking or sales/marketing did very well during the early 2000s. Engineers who stayed on as engineers were the losers, particularly if they work in a declining industry, like me. In the late 1990s, IT was a hot field of study. Today, Singapore is complaining about a shortage of IT workers. How can that be? I bet the reason is that many of these people who were trained in IT switched to greener pastures.

    To attract and retain engineers, we have to pay engineers well throughout their career with reasonable security. Singapore cannot pay engineers like Google does unless we have our own mini Googles. We need our best minds in the private sector to create great companies that generate wealth and jobs. Unfortunately, our best minds today, being the best minds as they are, will make career calculations based on the best risk-reward ratio. The conclusion is to go join the public sector. If they are the best minds, a low-risk high-gain awaits these scholars in the public sector. Why join the higher-risk, yet lower-gain private sector? Will this create the perception that winners(1st-class, 2nd-upper honours) go to public sector and losers(2nd-class lower honours and below) go to the private sector? I don't think this bodes well for Singapore's future because the private sector is the wealth-creation part of the economy while the public sector is the facilitator. I am worried about the unintended consequences of the high starting salary of engineers. Stupid of me to say that because I am an engineer but I am primarily saying that as a Singaporean worried about our long-term future.

    1. Hi Hyom Hyom,

      Hey, thanks for following my blog and the compliment. I just read your latest article about "Singaporean entrepreneurship…" It is so close to my heart. *clap clap*.

      Mind if I exchange bloglinks?

      FYI – I started as an engineer myself initially wanted to join civil service research as engineer after having a successful 1.5y intern + fyp with the co. However due to crisis and because I am not a scholar, I was not chosen and have to go to private sector.

      Yes, life is not just about smart and hard-working getting the fruits. It's also about learning from failure and pick up and many other more all-rounded aspects. Losing jobs is not a bad thing if u still can afford to! Can learn a lot.

      I am sad to hear engineer losing jobs and become drivers. As we were both from engineering, we know the syllabus locally is not just an easy nut to crack!

      Yes, I agree that we should reward engineer throughout their career. Perhaps the problem may not lie just with the salary of engineers but instead if there are sufficient jobs in Singapore private sector for our engineers anymore?

      Frankly, I am extremely worry about the future of Singapore. Yes very worry like u! We are losing our competitiveness and getting too expensive for many private MNC. This is ok, if our people are getting extremely efficient and innovative. Yet, I am starting to see the early entrants into society having higher expectations even before they started producing results. This is not their fault but because cost of living had steeply increased and our society values were no longer as core emphasis when everyone is busy earning.

      I had say exactly the same thing as u said, many times to my peers and many other pple about the "potential best minds" all joining public sector because of the risk-to-reward ratio! Ultimately, we will be lacking the best pple who truly form the core of the economic growth, yes local entrepreneurs and attracting foreign investment but instead all of them becoming facilitator of in the civil service.

      Not many pple I spoke to are as worried or concern as I do. Now I am so happy to find yourself whose thinking resonates with mine.

      Wish you a happy weekend ahead.

      Maybe we should catch up one day! 🙂

    2. The honor is mine to exchange bloglinks:)

      However, I have to warn you first that I will probably gain more from the exchange than you because your blog will probably be driving more traffic to mine than mine to yours. You have a much more active blog.

      I have stopped blogging for some time to focus more time as a part-time investor. Ever since liquidity "died" in the Singapore market, I have ventured out into global stock markets. The time required for an investor to at least beat the benchmark indices is not trivial. If a person lacks the interest and is not willing to spend that amount of time (weekends and week-nights burnt), it is better that he invests in passive stock indices in the form of ETFs. Minimum time spent, maximum investment impact.

      Sad to say, if engineering had provided me with a bright career, I would not have even started investing. Engineering is a career which is easy to be passionate about, particularly if you are in design and development. Everyday, the engineer is having fun solving useful practical problems. You get paid for solving intellectual puzzles. Then, when the machine finally works as expected, the exhilaration can be as good as sex.

      I lost my job a couple of times as an engineer. Fortunately or unfortunately, I lost my first job early in my career and that started me investing. Today, I am no longer as worried about losing my job. Losing job is more of a face problem than a money problem.

      I see you have done very well in your engineering career. Keep it up because our country needs more Singaporeans like you in the private sector. Oil and gas downturn is cyclical and it will surely rebound later. With your working attitude to take on more responsibilities during the downturn, I am sure you will do very well in catching the rebound. I think I am going to use your blog activity as a proxy to the rebound of the oil and gas industry in Singapore. I bet that your blog activity will drop when O&G rebounds. I doubt if you will have time for blogging when O&G starts booming again.

      For myself, I have to rely more heavily on my part-time investment activities because I see the downturn in the electronics industry as more structural than cyclical. I have to work more actively on an alternative plan because my present situation is highly precarious in the long-term.

    3. Hi Hyom,

      Thank you so much. Will add later.

      I already visited ur blog and realized that u only rarely blog before I asked for the exchange of links. I do not always do things because of benefits or profits. I do things close to my heart and so far it serves me well.

      Got to apologized that you mistaken and I did not really continue as an engineer. 🙁
      I only worked as an engineer for less than 3 yrs and even so it is a mixture of design and project. Since then by coincidence or chance, I already spent more than a decade as frontline with a better overview of business as a whole. And thankfully met many extraordinary mentors who are both entrepreneur and corporate giving me remarkable advice in career and in life. And also having the opportunity to travel and work with many pple around the world.

      More about me : https://rolfsuey.com/p/about-me_2.html?m=1

      Actually I started this blog early 2014 when O&G is seeing its height. The purpose of my blog is not very much similar to most bloggers. It actually serves as a library for my children.

      Read purpose here : https://rolfsuey.com/p/about-me_2.html?m=1

      So far it's non monetary and I want to keep it that way as I had rejected countless sponsored posts already. So hopefully with the right intention, and passion in this blog, it can last longer than usual! 🙂

      I agree with you that O&G will rebound, but contrarian to most will think, I will like to take a step back from the corporate career when the industry peak! That will be the time when I will 100% focus on things that I wanted truely to do after somewhat seeing the "enlightened light" in life.

      Perhaps like ur post mentioned, Singapore is lacking entrepreneurs and being someone who love our country and the people around me, I will like to give a try sometime! I also spent quite a fair bit of time in self-improving my investment and financial management skills so that should be able to help when I start my dogged entrepreneur life.

      I am quite determined in this aspect of entrepreneur just need some more time as I worked towards it.

      I am happy for you to be able to find alternative and plan ahead of the structural electronics decline. Many of my friends in the same industry highlighted the same and are worry but did nothing as compared to you.

      Kudos to you. May you be blessed with success and happiness always!

      And yes: May Mr. Heng recovers fast and back at work as we are really lacking good leadership in our cabinet looking ahead.

    4. Hi Rolf,

      Thank you for your well-wishes. I have already read your inspirational stories before we started this exchange. I am aware that you did not work long directly as an engineer and that is why I am even more impressed. You branched out to whatever suit you best according to the situation and did very well compared to those who stayed the course. I still treat you as a fellow engineer because you are still in the engineering industry and contributing to this sector.

      I wish you all the best in your entrepreneurial endeavours and every success. If enough people like you succeed, Singapore will continue to be a shining economic beacon. I have no doubt in your financial management skills. It takes discipline to sacrifice a BMW when you can still afford it to prepare for risky times ahead. In Singapore's context, it can definitely save you lots of money over the long-run. The money saved will surely come in handy when you want to do something great but risky or when you lose your job.

      If one day when your job no longer requires a car, you can join my club, also known as the BMW club (Bus, MRT, Walk). Not sure if I should be embarrassed. I have never owned a car and my youngest kid seems to "look down" on me by comparing my BMW with his classmates fathers' authentic BMW. Hope your kid does not give you similar pressure. Whatever it is, I still prefer my BMW which gives me more freedom in life compared to an authentic BMW which gives the driver freedom on the road but slavery in life (assuming he is over-spending for that luxury).

    5. Hi Hyom Hyom,

      Yes, I am always contributing to the engineering sector up to today. Even my career as frontline is so technically intensive, for without the engineering knowledge it is almost not possible to do well.

      Once an engineer, always an engineer!

      Other than engineering, the only other sector that I interest me is education. For I had give private tuition for 10 years and as a kid, I once wanted to be a lecturer. Also education is something that is life-long and even if not working, we will be educating our children.

      Haha BMW… Dennis Ng mentioned about this before also. I am happy that you are the rare few who do not complain about public transport.

      I dislike the crowd, but who knows as one age, you may eventually like crowd. So I do not discount that. At present, a vehicle is more convenient to me as I still have my little ones!

      Ok… wish you and Singapore all the best!

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