Benefits of general vs vocational/technical education in Singapore using quantile regressions

Chris Sakellariou (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Publication date: 1 June 2006



This study sets out to investigate the pattern of benefits from education along the earnings distribution and compares this pattern between general and vocational/technical education in Singapore, with a particular focus on male‐female differences.


Quantile regression methodology is used, which allows for estimates of education benefits that differentiate the contribution of the quantity and quality of education along the earnings distribution. The quantile regression estimates highlight where in the income/ability distribution the impact of education is more pronounced.


Finds that, while the pattern of returns to an additional year of education for general education follows that of other high income countries, exhibiting increasing returns to education as one goes from lower to higher income quantiles, the returns to vocational education exhibit much lower heterogeneity. Based on the findings, the vocational education system in Singapore has served women with secondary vocational qualifications particularly well. They earn more, have higher labor force participation, experience higher employment rates and are associated with a narrower gender earnings gap compared with women with general education. However, this is not the case for women with polytechnic qualifications, who earn much less than men with such qualifications.

Practical implications

The findings suggest that, by and large, Singapore's vocational education system at the secondary level has successfully addressed the needs of the industry and has contributed towards narrowing gender earnings differentials. It has also contributed towards less overall earnings inequality, because it results in less heterogeneity in the returns to education, compared with general education. However, the curricula of polytechnics need to be re‐examined to identify the cause of the sharply lower female benefits from this type of education.


The paper contributes to the empirical literature with its use of the quantile regression methodology in evaluating the benefits of vocational versus general education for men and women.



Sakellariou, C. (2006), "Benefits of general vs vocational/technical education in Singapore using quantile regressions", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 27 No. 4, pp. 358-376.

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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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