More unemployed? How many more?

by: Leong Sze Hian/

I refer to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) Employment Situation in Second Quarter 2011 report, released on 29 July.

Unemployment rate rise to 4%
It states that “On a non-seasonally adjusted basis, the overall and resident unemployment rate in June 2011 were 2.7% and 4.0 respectively”.

The increase is quite large compared to March’s 1.8% and 2.6%, respectively.

81,300 unemployed?
“An estimated 81,300 residents were unemployed in June 2011” and “Unemployed persons” include those who “were actively looking for a job during the survey reference period”.

Hence, those who were not actively looking for a job were excluded.

The last time this figure was available – it was 10,900.

So, if we add this 10,900 to the 81,300 unemployed, the total may be around 92,200.

Also, those on training programmes are also excluded.

Singaporeans unknown?
Since the unemployment data is never broken down into Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs), although occasionally and selectively (but rarely), some other labour data like wages, have ever been broken down (but only for very limited time periods), the perennial question is how many are Singaporeans?

Since it has been said very often after the recent general elections, that the Government will transform itself and will listen to the people more, when will Singaporeans unemployment and jobs data be “un-secretised”, if there is such a word?

Given that PRs who cannot find a job, may be more likely to return to their home country or move to another one, I believe the percentage of unemployed Singaporeans may be much higher than the ratio of citizens to PRs in the population statistics.

1 in 12 unemployed?
On this basis, I estimate the Singaporeans’ unemployment rate to be about double the resident rate of 4.0%, i.e. around 8.0%.

If this estimate is correct, it may mean that about one in 12 Singaporeans may be unemployed.
Whilst on this subject, why do ordinary citizens like me, have to guess what is the statistic?

Are there any other countries in the world that do this?

More jobs good?
As to total employment grew by 22,800 in the second quarter of the year, lower than the 28,300 in the preceding quarter, looking at this figure alone may be quite meaningless, as what we also need to know is how many new Singaporeans entered the work force, how many new foreign workers and PRs entered the work force, less those from the above three categories who left the workforce due to death, retirement, migration, voluntary departure from Singapore, re-training, etc.

For example, what’s the point of growing total employment, if most of the new jobs are $5 an hour jobs, or most of it went to foreigners or PRs?

So many things up?
With inflation in June having risen to 5.2 per cent year-on-year, higher than the 4.5 per cent rise in May, and several global surveys citing Singapore, as one of the most expensive cities to live in, the financial stress on the unemployed, may be rising too.

At the same time, basic necessities like electricity and food have gone up, and possibly public transport fares as well.

Perhaps the people in the MOM need their jobs to be changed, in order to get more transparency and accountability!

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