I APPLAUD the initiatives to give more opportunities to polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education graduates. However, unless we address the high income inequality in Singapore, it is unlikely that we can assure Singaporeans that a degree is not necessary for success.

Top earners tend to have higher qualifications that give them access to good-paying jobs. Not possessing a degree could even reduce one's chances of snagging a middle management position.

Rags-to-riches tales of individuals with low qualifications achieving success remain the exception rather than the norm.

Another factor is the association of pay with prestige. In our society, white-collar workers with higher wages tend to be more respected than blue-collar workers on lower pay.

Countries that do not face this problem, such as Germany and Norway, have much lower income inequality than Singapore.

Blue-collar workers in these countries are paid salaries that do not differ greatly from those of their professional counterparts. Their skills and contributions are valued by society, which does not see them as being inferior to professionals.

As long as a degree is perceived as the route to affluence and success in life, the paper chase is unlikely to ease.