MOM report- Estimated 500,000 earn less than $1,200 or are unemployed

by Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the Report on Labour Force in Singapore 2010, released by the Ministry of Manpower on 31 January 2011.

Real income up 0.5 %

The median gross monthly income from work rose by only 3.3 per cent last year. After adjusting for inflation of 2.8 per cent last year, the real increase was only 0.5 per cent. Even full-time employed residents’s real income only increased by 1.3 per cent.

Since December’s year-on-year inflation was at a 2-year high of 4.6 per cent, the reality for some Singaporeans may be that they may have had a third consecutive year of negative real wage growth.

As the median income was $2,000 in 2000, after adjusting for inflation to $2,500 in 2010, does it mean once again that the real income growth over the last decade or so was only just over one per cent per annum?

Jobs for Singaporeans?

Source: MOM

Although the total resident labour force increased by 105,900 from 3,030,000 in 2009 to 3,135,900 in 2010, the increase for residents and non-residents was 61,600 and 44,300, respectively.

Since the number of new citizens and permanent residents was about 49,000 (29,265 PRs and 18,758 new citizens) last year, how many of the 61,600 increase in jobs went to Singaporeans?


The number of unemployed residents non-seasonally adjusted was 84,400 or 4.1 per cent. How many are Singapreans since the resident data is not broken down to Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs)?

Also, while the incidence of training among the unemployed increased for the fourth successive year to reach a decade-high of 19% in 2010, are the unemployed who undergoe training counted as unemployed?

It is interesting to note that a recent survey “Training Outcomes of Employed Residents Aged 15 to 64, 2010″ shows that: only 2.2% of the total number of respondents indicated:Previously unemployed but training helped me get this current job”, and – only 1.0% indicated: “Previously in contract employment but training helped me get a permanent job”.

Self-employed increase

The number of self-employed residents increased from 275,800 in 2009 to 284,600 in 2010, to comprise 14.5 per cent of employed residents by employment status. Does ths indicate that Singaporeans are becoming more entreprenuerial or are finding it harder to get full-time jobs? Professionals, Managers, Engineers and Tecnicians (PMETs) comprised the largest component of the self-employed at 179,700 (63.2%).

More part-timers

According to the MOM report, the number and share of part-timers in the resident workforce rose to 176,700 or 9.0% in 2010 from 156,200 or 8.4% in 2009.  Does it mean that more Singaporeans may prefer to work part-time, or that it may be harder to get a full-time job?

Perhaps what is interesting is that around half or 49% of the part-timers in 2010 were “willing and available to work additional hours (i.e. underemployed … the number of underemployed residents rose from 80,500 or 4.3% of all employed residents to 86,600 or 4.4% over the year … older residents aged 60 & over (8.8%) and in their 50s (6.1%) also had higher underemployment rates than those in their 20s to 40s (2.3 to 4.2%)”. So, does this mean that a lot of people, particularly the older ones, were willing to work more, but could not get more work?

Term contracts getting shorter?

Another interesting statistic may be that those on term contracts of more than 2 years declined by 31.7 per cent,  and those on 3 months to less than 6 months increased by 14 per cent.

Does this mean that those on contract jobs are being offered shorter contracts, and thus may run a higher risk of being more frequently unemployed if their contracts are not renewed?

How many earn less than $1,200?

According to the report, the number and share of full-timers with gross monthly income from work of $1,200 and below declined to 262,700 or 15% in 2010 from 275,000 or 17% in 2009.  This $1.200 figure has been used over the last 10 years or so – shouldn’t it be adjusted for inflation?

Also, there were 400,100 residents who earned up to $1,200 per month from work, forming 21% of the workforce. “This was slightly lower than 401,600 or 22% a year ago” – if the $1,200 is adjusted for inflation, how many residents are earning an inflation-adjusted $1,200 today? If we add to this inflation-adjusted figure, the 84,400 unemployed and the 10,900 discouraged unemployed who have given up looking for a job, I estimate the grand total to be more than half a million, who earn less than $1,200 (inflation-adjusted) or are unemployed!

Longest working hours in the world?

The report also revealed that the average (mean) usual hours worked per week among employed residents rose by 1.0 hour over the year to 46.6 hours in 2010 “… the usual weekly working hours increased over the year for both full-time (from 47.9 to 49.2 hours) and part-time (from 21.1 to 21.6 hours) employed residents” – last year, Singaporeans worked the longest hours in the world, and it looks like we may be number one again this year!

Since the real income increase was only 0.5 per cent, if we adjust for the longer woking hours, what is the real income increase?

Also, among the education groups, degree holders (38%) and residents with below-secondary qualifications (36%) were more likely to exceed 48 hours of work per week. Considering full-timers only, the below-secondary educated had the longest working hours averaging 52 hours per week.

Does this indicate that the higher educated and the lower-educated we are, the more hours we have to work! Perhaps we should just have secondary education in order to work less hours!

Older, harder to get job?

The report also indicated that once out of work, mature residents were more likely to stay unemployed for extended periods. “Close to three in ten (28%) resident job seekers aged 40 & over had been looking for work for at least 25 weeks in June 2010, higher than two in ten (20%) for all job seekers.” So, the older you get, the harder it may be to get another another job!

The above statistics do not seem to commensurate with the record GDP growth of 14.9 per cent last year, and a barrage of media reports that the labour market is very tight.

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