Why I Think NS is Great for Employment

When we think about NS, we usually think of military defence – and this is the most obvious function of it. But what we often miss is the relevance of NS to unemployment figures. While detractors say NS is bad for job seekers, I’m going to try playing the devil’s advocate and suggest the opposite may be true.


Soft Skills, Readiness for the Workplace, Blah Blah

At this point you expect a post on the various soft skills provided by NS, the opportunities we find there, etc. etc.

This is not what I’m talking about.

I make no judgements how beneficial NS is to each individual. That would depend on the experiences and attitudes of the individual in question. I would also distrust any job counsellor who claims objective knowledge of whether skills acquired in NS can help your career. In some cases they will, in others they won’t. There is no universal answer, since no two Singaporeans go through the exact same NS experience.

Likewise, I am not venturing a statement on who should do NS, or how it’s unfair that some Permanent Residents don’t have to do it, etc. Those are separate discussions from this one, with a different set of considerations.

I want to think about unemployment.

Singapore’s unemployment is a low but persistent 2%.

It’s annoying, like a minor cough we can’t get rid off. But it’s there, so let’s admit it – we do have to work at job creation, and we’re not perfectly successful at it yet. As an aside, this 2% unemployment translates to about 53,900 unemployed Singaporeans.Keep that number in mind.

Now how many Singaporeans are eligible for NS, do you think?

By that I mean Singaporeans who would not be competing for jobs in the economy while busy doing NS.

The last census in 2014 identifies 132,000+ male Singaporeans aged 20-24. Let’s say half (aged 20 – 22, just after University, Poly, etc.) would have been busy with NS. That’s 66,000 Singaporeans.

Now say NS didn’t exist, and we had these 66,000 young men who were all waiting for jobs. Would the economy be able to accommodate them fast enough?

If NS had stopped suddenly in 2014, Singapore would have had to provide jobs for both the unemployed (53,900) plus the batch that should have been in NS (66,000). If the jobs don’t appear fast it could double up those unemployment figures.

It sucks having to compete with another 66,000 job candidates

Picture the size of your entire NS unit. Now picture the size of the entire cohort, the whole intake for SAF, in your particular year.

Then picture that number of people fighting you for jobs (or places in a University).

Are your prospects really better? My guess is, not really. I suspect that, by staggering the entry of NS men into the job market by two years, we give the economy time to create the jobs we need. Much like how waiters sometimes stop you taking an empty table for 20 minutes or so (it slows the customer intake so the kitchen can cope).

Let me know what you think. Give me a shout on Facebook!

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One comment

  1. coffeeguyredux · May 24, 2015

    I’m not sure if I get what you are saying. Are you trying to say that without NS, our unemployment figures would increase?

    I do not think that it is true as you did not factor in the cohort of NSFs going ORD every year. In short, what NS did isn’t really to stagger entry into the workforce, but to delay their entry. Your theory would most likely be applicable when NS first started in the 60s.

    I could be wrong though.

    Love your article on those anti govt kooks.


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