The Manpower Ministry (MOM) released the advance report today (27 Apr) on the Singapore's labour market for the first quarter of 2018.
"Unemployment rates in March 2018 were mostly lower than December 2017 and a year ago," MOM announced. "Retrenchments were also lower in 1Q 2018 than the preceding quarter and a year ago."
Total employment, however, continued to decline in 1Q 2018, although it declined by a smaller extent than the same period a year ago, MOM said.
MOM attributed the decline largely to the "continued contraction in Work Permit Holders in Construction and Marine Shipyard."
Overall, MOM said that all the indicators point to "a slight improvement in labour market conditions in 1Q 2018".
Unemployment rate for Singaporeans remains unchanged
However, when going into the details, it can be seen that things are not exactly improving for Singaporeans.
The overall unemployment rate may have "marginally" declined from 2.1% in Dec 2017 to 2.0% in Mar 2018 with the resident (citizens and PRs) unemployment rate falling from 3.0% to 2.8%.
However, the unemployment rate for citizens has remained unchanged, languishing at 3.0%. That means, it was the unemployment rate for PRs that has declined much further which helped to pull the resident (citizens and PRs) unemployment rate to 2.8%.
MOM said that sectors which had higher concentration of locals (citizens and PRs) in its manpower such as Community, Social & Personal Services, Financial & Insurance, Information & Communications and Transportation & Storage continued to post employment increases, despite the overall decline in total employment.
But given that the PR unemployment rate went down but citizen unemployment rate did not, one can only assume that perhaps those sectors that posted employment increases must have benefited the PRs more than for citizens.
Only 18% of foreign students granted PR want Singaporean citizenship
It's no wonder that many foreigners who hold PR status do not want to convert to Singaporean citizenship.
In Feb this year, speaking in Parliament, Minister Josephine Teo revealed that 7,251 foreign students applied for PR in Singapore in the 17 years between 2000 and 2017. Only 82% or 5,932 were granted Permanent Resident (PR) status.
However, out of these foreigners who were granted PR status, only 18% or 1,072 subsequently took up Singaporean citizenship.
Ms Teo was replying to a question with regard to the trend among foreign students applying for citizenship in Singapore.
When asked about the nationalities of the students whose PR applications were successful, she said that she did not have the detailed breakdown.
"I think a good majority of them would come from Asia," replied Ms Teo.