My first reaction after reading the article was one of disgust. As an undergrad myself albeit not from a local university, it took me years to work to that salary range and now fresh graduates are already asking $4,000. I actually wrote a very sinister post of what a fresh graduate should be doing to justify his high asking salary but after simmering down, I began to ponder why these people have such high expectations.

When I started my job search, one of the key question in mind is the salary. After slogging for that piece of paper, the last thing I want is to be underpaid. I do not have a number in mind and one way is to benchmark against my friends’ salary. However most will not reveal to me their exact salary, and even if they did I doubt it has much bargaining power – I can’t tell the employer that my friend John is earning $X amount and since my grads are better I should be paid more. The next best way is to look at salary reports. Since the poll is conducted by STJobs, I decide to take a look STJobs Salary Benchmarker

The Account is the first job on the list and being a popular choice, I will use it as an example. Using $4,000 x 12 as the annual gross income, the results are as below:

Source: http://app.stjobs.sg/salary/accountant/across-all-industries/47

Source: http://app.stjobs.sg/salary/accountant/across-all-industries/47

The median income for an account is $56,100 and the bottom 25% is earning $46,992. This work out to $3,916 to $4,675. Asking for $4,000 looks reasonable no?

It was just after SARS when I started on my first job and the economy was still filled with uncertainties. When I was offered a job within a week after graduation, I jumped on it – my salary was $1,650. Everyone congratulated me for being able to find a job but if I fast forward to the present, I believe everyone will look at me in disbelief.

Although my starting salary is low compared to today’s ‘standards’, the cost of living then was also relatively affordable. A new 4 room at Sengkang cost $129K to $202K and the COE for a car is about 20K. If you look at the prices now, they have more than doubled. If I am earning $1,650 amid a gloomy market then, surely asking for $4,000 in a more stable economy and higher cost of living doesn’t seem unreasonable ya?

It is easy to point to a generation of spoilt kids who have not been through hardship. While there may be some truth in it, I think the main reason is due to the cost of living in Singapore. I talked to SGYI recently and he mentioned that MOE is looking for people to give financial talks to tertiary students because they found that the students are feeling quite demoralized about their future. When I was at their age, I was more worried about grades but who can blame them?

For a fresh graduate with a study loan to pay, preparing for marriage, applying for a HDB, going for a holiday or two, can I really blame them for asking a high starting salary?

PS: We just had the ‘honor’ of making it into the most expensive city again.