An Honest Conversation about Salaries After Leaving University

Recently, I have been seeing a lot of debate surrounding the topic of what a reasonable salary is for a recent university graduate in Jamaica. Being a recent university graduate myself, this topic piqued my interest.

The truth is that the salaries being offered to recent graduates can be pretty demotivating and rather exploitive. This kind of comment is usually counter argued with talks of us being “entitled” but let’s have a real discussion about this.

What’s really the issue?

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with someone rejecting a job offer if the job doesn’t pay enough. It’s honestly dishonest how society likes to pretends we didn’t put in all the work at school so we could increase our earning potential. We work for money, that’s the honest truth. If anyone want to sugar coat it and pretend that we are truly working to only be fulfilled then we aren’t being honest with ourselves. This is not to say that fulfillment isn’t an important part of our lives, it’s just that survival usually comes first and for good reason. We generally try to get jobs that makes us both fulfilled and financially stable and we achieve that if we’re lucky.

Some university graduates who were fortunate enough to even secure jobs are only raking in JM$70,000 to JM$100,000 monthly. Of course, there are those instances where the graduates may earn above or below this range. However, this range is only ideal if the graduate is still living at home, doesn’t have student loan debt or has someone to offset some of their bills and living expenses. What is considered a reasonable income for one graduate may not be reasonable for another.

Let’s consider this scenario:

A graduate earns $100k per month. They borrowed from the Student Loan Bureau for all 3 or 4 years of their degree program. They now are expected to repay the SLB $15k per month. The job offer the graduate receives is from outside of their home parish so they will now have to pay a monthly rent of roughly $30k. If the house is already furnished it could be even more. Their grocery bill, including toiletries, are about $20k per month. The light and water bills combined are about $7k per month. The wifi is maybe another $3k per month. On top of that, like many Jamaicans from humble beginnings, they are now expected to help their family financially when they start earning and so another $10k per month is budgeted to help mommy and daddy.

Already the graduate is paying about 85k per month with unavoidable obligations. This leaves just 15k with barely makes a dent in creating an emergency fund for themselves. Also bear in mind that transportation to and from work hasn’t yet been included and just imagine if they wanted to go out and live a little every once in a while.

Can costs be lower? Sure, they can contact the Student Loan Bureau and adjust how much they pay per month. They can invest in energy saving appliances and bulbs. The issue here isn’t really about cutting corners, it’s about the fact that these salaries aren’t great to begin with. They don’t give us much room for investing and home ownership. That’s the tea.

Do people survive with less than that? Of course – if they have to. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that people should be paid better. While this article is focused on recent university graduates, people in general aren’t being paid well and it’s not ungrateful or rude to point this out.

In conclusion:

One of the points I was trying to make was that what is reasonable for one person may not be reasonable for another because of responsibilities that each individual may have. The cry for better salaries doesn’t stem from a great desire to attend Breakfast Parties and “play mas” on Jump Up day. It’s because people are barely making ends meet. And even if we wanted more money for recreational activities, why is that a crime? Isn’t life meant to be lived?

These are just my two cents.


This article originally appeared on Goody On A Budget.

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