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Fastest growing economy – what about jobs and wages? (Part 2)

Leong Sze Hian / Andrew Loh -

The Prime Minister, on 15 July, was reported by the Straits Times as having said that the 100,000 foreign workers who are set to enter Singapore “was unavoidable as the labour market was bursting at the seams.” (Link)

However, if one takes a look at this Ministry of Manpower report, the story may be a totally different one. If the labour market is indeed “bursting at the seams”, why is it that according to MOM:

-       Although total employment change grew by 36,500 to 3,026,500, the seasonally adjusted number of unemployed residents has increased.

-       Mature residents remain the largest unemployed group.

-       Degree holders had the smallest improvement in unemployment rate and their share among resident job seekers increased.

-       The long-term unemployed's share in the unemployed pool increased.

-       Long-term unemployment rate for degree holders and younger residents increased.

-       61% of the long-term unemployed were aged 40 and over.

-       The number of production and related workers and clerical, sales and service workers laid off increased.

-       PMETs accounted for more than half those made redundant.

-       Mature residents formed a higher share among residents laid off and was also higher than their representation among resident employees, and the re-employment rate decreased.

To further unpack the government’s claim that the job market is “bursting at the seams”, we need to take a closer look at the labour statistics. This is an exercise in number-crunching and we hope readers will bear with us. It is, however, well worth going into to come to a more balanced view of the situation.

Unemployment

  • The seasonally adjusted number of unemployed residents rose from 61,100 in December 2009 to 66,200 in March 2010.
  • Mature residents aged 40 and over remained the largest group among unemployed residents - 29,800 or 47% - in March 2010.
  • 10,200 or 34% of unemployed mature residents have a degree, polytechnic diploma or upper secondary education.
  • 21,100 unemployed residents had a degree or polytechnic diploma.
  • Degree holders formed the second highest number of unemployed residents, at 15,600.
  • The number of unemployed with secondary education stands at 15,900.
  • Degree holders experienced the smallest improvement in unemployment rate from 3 to 2.8% than all the other education groups.
  • Degree holders' share among resident job seekers rose from 18 to 25%.

Long-term unemployment

  • The number of residents who had been looking for work for at least 25 weeks' share in the unemployed pool rose from 19 to 23%.
  • The long-term unemployment rate for younger residents aged below 30 edged up from 0.7 to 0.8%.
  • The majority - 61% or 8,900 - of the long-term unemployed were aged 40 and over

Redundancy

  • The number of production and related workers laid off rose for the second consecutive quarter.
  • The number of workers in clerical, sales and service positions made redundant, increased compared to the fourth quarter of 2009.
  • PMETs accounted for slightly over half - 51% - of the residents made redundant in the first quarter of 2010.
  • Mature residents in their 40s (33%) or older (28%) formed a higher share among residents laid off in the first quarter of 2010 than in the fourth quarter of 2009 (29% and 26% respectively). This was also higher than their representation among resident employees at 27 and 25% respectively

Re-employment

  • The re-employment rate within 6 months of redundancy fell from 52% in December 2009 to 50% in March 2010

In light of all the above statistics, is the labour market really “bursting at the seams”? Should we then again blame those who are unemployed for being “choosy”? Or should we repeat to them the mantra of “upskilling” and “upgrading”?

Perhaps it is time for the government to explain the above statistics, which are from the MOM itself, and give Singaporeans a more balanced view of the situation.

And our local media should not just parrot what it is given and instead ask these hard questions so that S'poreans have a more accurate picture of the labour scene.

In our next article, part three on the topic of jobs and wages, we take a look at the latter and what the NTUC has been doing (or not doing) with regards to it.

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Read Part 1 of this article: Fastest growing economy - what about jobs and wages?