Graduates earn S$1.4 million more

by Education Cube, posted on Apr 8, 2016

bread and butter

"Bread and butter - a job or activity that provides you with the money you need to live."

How much more would you earn if you had a degree qualification?

 According to the Ministry of Manpower Labour Force in Singapore 2015 report that was released on 28 January 2016, the median gross monthly income from work (excluding employer CPF) of full-time employed residents in the age group 30 to 34 by highest qualification attained is S$5,500 for Degree qualification and S$3,500 for Diploma and Professional Qualification (Figure 1).

Figure 1:

Fig 1 median income

This means that the group armed with the degree qualification is earning approximately 57% more than the group with the diploma and professional qualification.  This same result is consistently true across all age groups, and gender and go as high as 90% (Figure 2).

Figure 2:

Fig 2 degree holders earn more

Degree holders earn S$1.4 million more over the course of a 40-year career.

When we extrapolated this data to calculate the lifetime income over 40 years from age 20 to 59, we found that a degree holder could earn S$3.3 million while a diploma and professional degree holder could earn S$1.9 million. A whooping sum of S$1.4 million or 74% more. So is it worth it to get that degree? From our point of view, we think it’s pretty worth the effort, time and money to pursue it.

Gender Pay Gap - Being a woman will cost you up to S$500,000.

If you are a woman in Singapore, you will earn less than your male counterpart with the same qualifications almost from the word go. While it may be true due to occupational segregation or that males stay in the workforce longer as they typically do not take career breaks, strive for leadership positions, tend to take up riskier jobs which commands higher pay, it is nevertheless quite intriguing to see that the price to pay for being a woman is almost S$300,000 if you have a diploma and professional qualification, and almost S$500,000 if you have a degree, over the course of a 40-year career.

Figure 3:

Income gap between females and males

The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index 2015 report highlighted that the annual pay for women only now equals the amount men were earning ten years ago. We do not think this is acceptable and neither do we think that it is acceptable for Singapore women to work an additional 5 to 10 years to equal the pay of what a man makes in 40 years. Gender should not matter more than education when it comes to lifetime earnings.

Perhaps, rather than wait for policies to catch up, think about more lucrative occupation, or ask for a pay raise. Don't give up on education as it still pays more to have that degree!

Figure 4:

WEF income gap 10 years


Gross monthly income refers to wages or salaries before deduction of employee CPF contributions and personal income tax. It comprises basic wages, overtime pay, commissions, tips, other allowances and one-twelfth of annual bonuses.

Median (or 50th percentile) income refers to the income level at the middle of the income distribution which divides the bottom half of income earners from the upper half.


World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2015,

Singapore Ministry of Manpower Labour Market Report 2015 (Chart: Median gross monthly income from work (excluding  employer CPF) of full-time employed residents aged fifteen years and over by highest qualification attained, age and sex, June 2015)


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