Fewer graduates found work 6 months after leaving university in 2023, but median salary up slightly

SINGAPORE: The proportion of university graduates who found employment within six months of taking their final exams dropped to 89.6 per cent in 2023 from 93.8 per cent the year before.

This is according to the results of the annual Joint Autonomous Universities Graduate Employment Survey released on Thursday (Feb 22).

The median gross monthly salary among fresh graduates in full-time permanent employment rose slightly, however, increasing by 2.7 per cent to S$4,313 (US$3,215) from S$4,200 in 2022. The figure rose by 10.5 per cent between 2021 and 2022.

Of the 10,900 fresh graduates in the labour force polled in the 2023 survey, 84.1 per cent were in full-time permanent employment, down from 87.5 per cent in 2022.

Freelancers, meanwhile, accounted for 1.5 per cent of those in the labour force, a decrease from 1.8 per cent in 2022.

The figure for those in part-time or temporary employment was 4 per cent, down from 4.5 per cent in 2022.

About a quarter of those employed on a part-time or temporary basis – 1.1 per cent of all respondents in the labour force – were in involuntary part-time or temporary employment in 2023, compared to 0.8 per cent in 2022, according to the survey.

Of the remaining respondents in the labour force, 3.6 per cent were unemployed but commencing work soon or starting a business venture, while 6.8 per cent were unemployed and still looking for work.

The health sciences, information and digital technologies, and business clusters recorded the highest full-time permanent employment rates.

The survey was conducted by the National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the Singapore Management University (SMU) and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS).

Singapore’s two other autonomous universities – the Singapore University of Technology and Design and the Singapore Institute of Technology – will release the results of their own surveys separately at later dates.

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Renesas putting Japan on global chip-making map - Asia Times

TOKYO – Renesas Electronics plans to acquire printed circuit board electronic design company Altium and gallium nitride power device maker Transphorm with a third major acquisition reportedly in the works, the latest big moves by Japan’s largest integrated semiconductor device maker.

These and previous acquisitions are key to the company’s drive to build a large, profitable and globally competitive semiconductor business spanning automotive, industrial, infrastructure, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing, data center and space and defense applications.

In combination with the rationalization of existing operations, the moves to date have been profitable. Since 2016, the company’s consolidated sales have increased by 2.3 times to 1.5 trillion yen (US$9.8 billion) while operating profit margin has risen from 11.0% to 26.6%.

Renesas is a world leader in microcontrollers for the auto industry and also possesses embedded processing, analog, power management, radio frequency, sensor, system-on-chip (SOC) and other semiconductor technologies.

It has its own front-end wafer fabrication capacity in Japan, and some in Florida, but also outsources production to Taiwan’s TSMC and Global Foundries. Its back-end assembly, packaging and test operations are located in Japan, China and Malaysia.

On January 11, Renesas announced the purchase of 100% of Transphorm, an American producer of gallium nitride (GaN) power semiconductor devices with more than 1,000 related patents. The acquisition is likely to be completed in the second half of 2024.

GaN is expected to be the next widely used power semiconductor material after silicon carbide (SiC). Both have applications in electric vehicles (EVs), data centers, renewable energy and industrial power conversion.

Renesas, which signed a 10-year SiC wafer supply agreement with Wolfspeed last summer, plans to start mass production of SiC power devices in 2025. Wolfspeed is the world’s leading producer of silicon carbide wafers.

On February 15, Renesas announced the 100% purchase of Altium, a developer of PCB electronic design software, a deal that is scheduled to close in the second half of 2024. Altium, which pioneered this technology, was established in Australia in 1985 and moved its headquarters to the US in 1991.

The acquisition will facilitate the design and integration of Renesas embedded microcontrollers, analog, power management and network devices, a process that is becoming increasingly complicated.

The plan is to create an “electronics system design and lifecycle management platform” open to third-party vendors using Altium’s cloud computing system for efficient collaboration across component, subsystem and system-level design.

In Japan, Altium competes with Zuken while worldwide it competes with SolidWorks, Autodesk, Synopsis, Cadence Design, Shanghai Tsingyue and several other companies. Collaboration with Renesas should make Altium more competitive and vice versa.

Renesas has growing global ambitions. Image: X Screengrab

On February 20, Renesas extended the expiration date of its tender offer to acquire all the shares of Sequans Communications to March 4. Sequans is a designer of telecom integrated circuits (ICs), transceivers and modules headquartered in Paris. Its 5G/4G solutions are optimized for massive broadband Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

Sequans’ target markets include industrial sites, logistics, enterprise routers, networked vehicles, smart city services, electronic healthcare services and smart homes – in short, almost everything but smartphones. Sequans has worked with telecom carriers Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, NTT DoCoMo and KDDI.

Since 2017, Renesas has completed seven acquisitions, greatly accelerating its technological advance and penetration of diverse markets while boosting sales, profits and profit margins.

Intersil, a US provider of power management and analog semiconductor devices, was the first of these acquisitions. The two companies’ products are complementary and, like Renesas, Intersil has a strong presence in automotive and industrial markets.

Intersil also makes radiation-tolerant ICs for space and defense applications, from low-earth orbit to the Mars Perseverance rover. These devices are made in Florida.

Spirit Electronics, an IC distributor and test service provider headquartered in Arizona, writes that nearly every satellite in space has a Renesas component on board.

In 2019, Renesas acquired Integrated Device Technology (IDT), a US supplier of analog and mixed-signal (analog and digital on the same chip) ICs and sensors for the communications, computing, consumer, automotive and industrial markets.

This was followed by the acquisition of Dialog Semiconductor and Celeno Communication in 2021. Dialog Semiconductor is a UK-based provider of battery and power management, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth short-range wireless and IoT devices. Celeno is an Israeli provider of Wi-Fi chipsets and software for home and corporate networks, autos, smart buildings and factories.

In 2022, Renesas acquired Reality AI and Steradian. Reality AI is a US developer of software for non-visual sensing in automotive, industrial and commercial environments. Its signal processing, machine learning, monitoring and anomaly detection software enhances the performance of Renesas processors.

Steradian is an Indian semiconductor design company that specializes in 4D imaging radar solutions for automotive, industrial, home security and other applications. 4D radar uses echolocation and time-of-flight measurement to track moving objects.

These are combined with Renesas SoCs for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). The acquisition complements the partnership established by Renesas and India’s Tata Motors and Tejas Networks in 2022.

Last year, Renesas acquired Panthronics, an Austrian semiconductor design company specializing in near-field communications (NFC) chipsets and software. NFC is a short-range technology that enables wireless connections between electronic devices within a few centimeters. Examples include card readers, cell phone payments, boarding passes and wristband healthcare monitoring.

All in all, the acquisitions have transformed Renesas into a truly multinational company. About half of the members of its senior management team are from acquired companies and more than half of its employees are foreign.

Executive meetings are generally held in English while its outside directors have worked overseas, many with foreign companies. CEO Hidetoshi Shibata, formerly executive managing director of Innovation Network Corporation of Japan (INCJ), a Japanese sovereign wealth fund, has an MBA from Harvard Business School.

The Japanese semiconductor industry is not, as it is often portrayed (especially by the Japanese), a failing enterprise desperately seeking its last chance in tie-ups with TSMC and IBM. On the contrary, it is the highly integrated, second-largest piece of the global semiconductor industry, with Renesas at its fast-expanding core.

Follow this writer on X: @ScottFo83517667

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Affected by the closure of CPF Special Accounts? Here's what you can do, according to finance experts

Mr Kyith Ng, founder of financial blog Investment Moats, said people can also use the CPF Investment Scheme to invest their Ordinary Account savings and potentially earn higher returns from lower-risk options like Treasury Bills.

If they have better investment opportunities outside of the CPF system, those who have reached the Full Retirement Sum can also withdraw their money for the time being.

“When they’re closer to 65 or 70 and they need the CPF Life income, they can do cash top-ups into their CPF (Retirement Accounts),” said Mr Ng. “I hope more people can see that kind of flexibility.”

Asked whether he recommends topping up the Retirement Account up to the Enhanced Retirement Sum – which will be raised to four times the basic sum next year – Mr Ng said it depends on a person’s retirement needs.

A member with the Enhanced Retirement Sum can receive around S$3,330 per month. But not everyone will need that amount, he said. In such a case, there’s no real need to put extra funds into the CPF system, he added.

For those who do want to top up their Retirement Accounts, Mr Yeap Ming Feng, head of finance website Seedly, pointed out that they can benefit from a tax relief scheme.

“But do note that these (Retirement Sum Topping-Up) scheme monies are set aside for your retirement needs and can only be used for monthly payouts for life from age 65,” he said.

POLICY RISK?

Mrs Veronique Dawson, a Singaporean homemaker, told CNA that she agreed the Special Account was an anomaly and said she had no issues with the closure of the accounts.

In fact, the money that CPF will save by not paying higher interest rates for Special Accounts could be put to good use, she said.

But the announcement was a reminder that unexpected changes by the government can affect retirement planning.

“I do see that CPF can have a policy risk. I’m 46 now (and) anything can change from now till I reach 65. The amount might change, so many other things might change,” she said.

“To mitigate policy risk, it’s good to disperse our funds in different avenues, which is what I do.”

Mr Loo of the 1M65 movement echoed that sentiment.

“This change brings about the awareness of this thing called policy risk, where people will start to wonder whether they can trust the CPF Board,” he said. “There’s a lot of trust that needs to be restored.”

He said that when Finance Minister Lawrence Wong made the announcement last week, around 10,000 “mostly negative” messages were sent on the 1M65 Telegram chat, which has more than 30,000 members.

For Mr Loo, he estimates that he will lose S$100,000 in interest earnings from the closure of the Special Account.

But Mr Ng of Investment Moats said the CPF has characteristics that make it a stable way to prepare for retirement. Many who try to invest in riskier assets find that it is difficult to beat the returns that CPF offers.

As for policy risk, that also exists for private investment funds.

“If they find something unsustainable, they will change it,” he said.

Similarly, the government may find that the existing system will not work out well in future and may tweak it to make it better in the long run, said Mr Ng.

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Singaporean woman, 33, dies in go-kart incident in Batam

SINGAPORE: A 33-year-old Singaporean woman died in a go-karting incident on Indonesian island of Batam on Wednesday (Feb 21).  The incident took place at Golden City Go Kart in Bengkong around 3.30pm local time (4.30pm, Singapore time), reported Berita Mediacorp, quoting Senior Superintendent Zahwani Pandra Arsyad Zahwani Pandra Arsyad of the RiauContinue Reading

Who is Thomas Zilliacus, the ex-YuuZoo CEO who eyed Man United and now wanted in Singapore?

Why was he issued an Interpol red notice? 

SPF said on Wednesday that Mr Zilliacus is wanted over his alleged involvement in the release of misleading statements in YuuZoo’s financial reports.

Similar warrants of arrest were issued against the company’s chief financial officer Michael Parker and two independent directors Anthony Williams and Ozi Amanat.

The police said that the four men are currently not in Singapore and “have refused to return”.

YuuZoo released several financial reports between 2015 and 2016 that were allegedly misleading, said the police.

The statements allegedly overstated YuuZoo’s revenue by US$4.6 million to US$18.8 million.

What happened to YuuZoo?

In April 2018, YuuZoo had its office raided by Singapore’s Commercial Affairs Department (CAD) for possible breaches under the Securities and Futures Act, reported several media outlets. Documents for the financial years 2013 to 2016 were seized.

Mr Zilliacus resigned in the same month amid the investigations.

In a filing to SGX in April 2018, YuuZoo said that CAD’s investigation was “caused by a complaint from an unknown party”.

“While (Mr Zilliacus) is convinced nobody in the company has done anything wrong, he believes the honourable thing to do is to step aside while the investigation is ongoing.” 

The company was also put under mandatory trading suspension from SGX since Mar 19, 2018, with its Shareholders Association submitting several requests to lift the suspension over the years.

In 2019, Mr Zilliacus called for the company to pay unpaid salaries to staff who were laid off regionally, reported The Business Times.

Its Shareholders Association had said that the trading suspension of YuuZoo’s shares meant that the company could not continue funding its subsidiaries, resulting in many retrenched workers in several countries not getting their salaries. 

On Wednesday, another former YuuZooCEO, James Matthew Somasundram, was handed four charges under the Securities and Futures Act in connection with the breaches by the firm.

He was alleged have been negligent in connection with the financial reports of YuuZoo, which is now known as YuuZoo Networks Group, for the final quarter of 2015 and the first three quarters of 2016.

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Democrats won't mention Thaksin in censure debate

Deputy leader says focus should be on government economic performance instead

Democrats won't mention Thaksin in censure debate
Former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra relaxes at his residence in Bang Phlat district of Bangkok after being paroled on Feb 18. (Photo Paetongtarn Shinawatra Instagram account @Ingshin21)

The opposition Democrat Party says it won’t mention the treatment of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as an inmate during the next censure debate because it is not directly related to the government’s job performance.

Key economic issues such as the lack of progress in the government’s much-hyped digital wallet programme are of more immediate relevance, Democrat deputy leader Chaichana Detdecho said on Thursday.

“We may not talk about the illness of Thaksin because Thaksin is the affected party,” said the Nakhon Si Thammarat MP. “He returned home and reunited with his family. The issue came to an end. All the rest concerns the justice system.

“Today society has no doubts about Thaksin but wonders if there are double standards. … I would like to ask the director-general of the Department of Corrections to give a clear answer.”

Mr Chaichana said the party expected a censure debate to take place before the end of the current House session in April. The Democrats intend to discuss the digital wallet scheme and the government’s announced policies to raise the minimum daily wage and salaries of graduates. The government has not realised those policies, he said.

Nine months ago Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin told the public that his government would give a 10,000-baht digital money handout to people aged over 16 years, and that it would not seek a loan to fund the 500-billion-baht programme.

Since then, he said, almost no progress has been made on the digital wallet scheme. It is now expected to begin in May at the earliest, and the government has said it would need to borrow the money needed to pay for it.

As well, Mr Chaichana said, the government has not realised its promise to raise the minimum daily wage to 600 baht and increase the minimum salaries of workers with bachelor’s degrees degrees to 25,000 baht.

The Pheu Thai Party in fact promised an increase in the minimum wage to 600 baht a day by the end of its term in 2027. It aimed to raise the wage to 400 baht by the end of 2023 but that sum was deemed unrealistically high by the independent national wage committee.

“I think that in a censure debate, we should criticise the performance of the government,” Mr Chaichana said.

The Senate is planning a general debate without a vote on the government’s work performance from 9am to midnight on March 25, Senate Speaker Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said this week.

Thaksin, 74, was paroled on Sunday after spending six months at Police General Hospital. He never spent a single night behind bars.

When he returned to the country after 15 years of self-imposed exile, he was sentenced to eight years in jail in connection with offences dating back to his time in office prior to 2006. Later the term was reduced to one year due to a royal pardon.

He was eligible for parole this month because he is old, seriously ill and had already served at least half of his term, corrections officials said.

However, public scepticism persists about the nature and extent of Thaksin’s illnesses, and whether he received special treatment.

Move Forward Party leader Chaithawat Tulathon said last week that he was aware of only three cases in which a prisoner was allowed to spend more than 120 days in a hospital outside the prison system. Thaksin was one, and the other two were mentally ill, he said.

No progress has been made on the government’s showcase digital wallet stimulus scheme, says Democrat Party deputy leader Chaichana Detdecho.

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Japan's main stock index closes above 1989 record high

Pedestrians walk past a display showing the Nikkei Stock Average after surpassing the record closing of 38,915.87 points marked at the end of December 1989, during a morning trade session in Tokyo, Japan, 22 February 2024.EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Japan’s main stock index has hit an all-time closing high, surpassing the previous record set 34 years ago.

The Nikkei 225 rose 2.19% on Thursday to end the trading day at 39,098.68.

That topped the previous record closing high of 38,915.87 set on 29 December 1989, the last day of trading that year.

Asian technology shares were boosted after US chip giant Nvidia revealed strong earnings, driven by demand for its artificial intelligence processors.

Global investors are returning to the benchmark index thanks to strong company earnings, even as the country’s economy has fallen into a recession.

The weakness of the Japanese currency has also helped to boost share prices of Japan’s exporters as it makes their products cheaper in overseas markets.

The Nikkei 225 hit its previous record high after years of soaring stock and property prices.

Less than three years after that peak the benchmark index had lost almost 60% of its value as the Japanese economy was engulfed in an economic crisis.

Since then the Japan has struggled with little or no economic growth and falling prices, known as deflation.

Deflation is bad for an economy as persistent price declines mean that consumers tend to hold off from buying big ticket items due to the expectation that they will be cheaper in the future.

Last week, official figures showed that the Japanese economy had unexpectedly slipped into recession in the last three months of 2023.

The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by a worse-than-expected 0.4% in the last three months of 2023, compared to a year earlier.

It came after the economy shrank by 3.3% in the previous quarter.

The figures from Japan’s Cabinet Office also indicate that the country has lost its position as the world’s third-largest economy to Germany.

The latest figures were the first reading of Japan’s economic growth for the period and could still be revised.

Two quarters in a row of economic contraction are typically considered the definition of a technical recession.

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Cotton candy: Pink sugary sweet sets off alarm bells in India

An Indian vendor carries cotton candy for sale at India Gate in New Delhi on October 28, 2014Getty Images

Can cotton candy give you cancer?

Some Indian states think so and have banned the sale of the pink, wispy, sugary-sweet treat.

Last week, the southern state of Tamil Nadu implemented the ban after lab tests confirmed the presence of a cancer-causing substance, Rhodamine-B, in samples sent for testing.

Earlier this month, the union territory of Puducherry banned the sweet treat while other states have begun testing samples of it.

Cotton candy, also called buddi-ka-baal (old woman’s hair) in India because of its appearance, is popular with children the world over.

It’s a fixture in amusement parks, fairs and other places of entertainment frequented by children, who like it because of its sticky, melt-in-the-mouth texture.

But some Indian officials say that the candy is more sinister than it seems.

P Satheesh Kumar, food safety officer in Chennai city in Tamil Nadu, told The Indian Express newspaper that the contaminants in cotton candy “could lead to cancer and affect all organs of the body”.

His team raided candy sellers at a beach in the city last week. Mr Kumar said the sweet sold in the city was made by independent sellers and not registered factories.

A few days later, the government announced a ban ban on its sale after lab tests detected the presence of Rhodamine-B, a chemical compound, in the samples. The chemical imparts a fluorescent pink hue and is used to dye textiles, cosmetics and inks.

Studies have shown that the chemical can increase the risk of cancer and Europe and California have made its use as a food dye illegal.

While banning cotton candy in Tamil Nadu, Health Minister Ma Subramanian said in a statement that using Rhodamine-B in the “packaging, import, sale of food or serving food containing it at weddings and other public events would be punishable under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006”.

Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu, the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh has also reportedly started testing samples of the candy to check for the presence of the carcinogen.

And earlier this week, the New India Express newspaper reported that food safety officials in Delhi too were pushing for a ban on cotton candy.

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