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MOM: Growth in local employment is likely to remain positive

Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in its latest statement on the labour outlook has commented that the labour market has continued to improve in the third quarter of 2017, with the drop in total employment in this period being lower than that in the two previous quarters, and affected mostly foreign workers. As a result, MOM stressed that the growth in local employment is likely to remain positive.

According to MOM, the citizen unemployment rate improved slightly, while the resident unemployment rate remained unchanged. Retrenchments declined, while the resident re-entry rate rose.

It noted that the seasonally-adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons also increased. For the whole of 2017, growth in total employment is likely to be negative, but local employment growth is likely to exceed that of 2016.

MOM states that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined slightly for citizens (3.3 percent in June 2017 to 3.2 percent in September 2017), while it remained unchanged overall (2.2 percent) and for residents (3.1 percent).

After declining in the previous quarter, MOM noted that the resident long-term unemployment rate edged up from 0.7 percent in June 2017 to 0.8 percent in September 2017, to the same level as a year ago.

The Ministry said that the decline in total employment (excluding Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW)) has been easing since the beginning of the year, which contracted by a smaller extent than the previous two quarters.

"The decline continued to be due mainly to the decrease in Work Permit Holders in Marine and Construction. Employment growth occurred mainly in sectors such as Community, Social & Personal Services, Accommodation, Financial Services and Professional Services," MOM noted.

MOM also said that retrenchments declined from 3,640 in the second quarter of 2017 to 3,400 in the third quarter of 2017, which was also lower than a year ago (4,220). The total number of retrenchments in the first nine months of 2017 (11,040) remained lower than the same period last year (13,730).

It noted that the six-month re-entry rate into employment of retrenched residents rose slightly to 66 percent in the third quarter of 2017, the highest level since the fourth quarter of 2015 (70 percent). In particular, younger workers below 30 (82 percent) and Production & Transport Operations, Cleaners & Labourers (75 percent) had the highest rates of re-entry.

The Ministry added that the seasonally-adjusted job vacancies to unemployed ratio has improved, continuing an uptrend since December 2016.

For the whole of 2017, MOM holds the view that local employment is likely to grow more than the 11,200 recorded in 2016, even as total employment could contract due to declines in Marine and Construction.

In line with the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s 2018 GDP growth forecast of 1.5 percent to 3.5 percent, with growth likely to come in at around the middle of the forecast range, MOM said that local employment is expected to continue to grow next year but remain uneven across sectors.

"Even as the pace of economic growth is expected to remain firm, job-skills mismatch will continue to be a growing challenge due to on-going economic restructuring and shifts in composition of the resident labour force," it said.

"MOM, Workforce Singapore (WSG) and tripartite partners will continue to support jobseekers and at-risk workers through initiatives under SkillsFuture and Adapt & Grow (A&G)," MOM added.

In the first nine months of 2017, MOM said that more than 18,000 individuals were successfully placed. Of these, more than half were mature workers (more than 40 years old) and more than half were Professionals, Managers, Executives & Technicians (PMETs).

To tap on this support, MOM encourages individuals to approach Careers Connect under WSG or NTUC’s e2i for career guidance and coaching. While, companies are urged to make use of available government support, such as the Lean Enterprise Development Scheme, to transform to be more manpower-lean and have better quality jobs. Companies can also tap on SkillsFuture and A&G programmes to meet their hiring needs or prepare at-risk workers to take on new functions or responsibilities.