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Unemployment rate for SG citizens inching up as FT employment continues to increase

According to new labour data released by MOM yesterday (13 Sep), unemployment rate is inching up for Singapore citizens.

The overall unemployment rate rose from 2 per cent as at March 31 to 2.1 per cent at the end of June while that of Singapore citizens went up from 3 to 3.1 per cent.

This is due to "more persons entered the labour force looking for work, in line with the pick-up in economic activities", MOM said.

Layoffs increased from 2,320 in the first quarter to 3,030 in the second as well.

"Business restructuring and re-organisation remained the top reason for retrenchment across industries," said the ministry.

The bulk of layoffs came from the services sector, with the PMETs comprising 79 per cent of all retrenched residents.

"As restructuring picks up pace amid increased economic activity, jobs and skills mismatches will continue to be a challenge," said MOM. It urged workers and companies to be responsive to changes.

Writing on Facebook, Labour MP Patrick Tay also blamed job "mismatch" as the main cause of unemployment.

Foreign employment increases

Meanwhile, for the first half of 2018, overall foreign employment (excluding foreign domestic workers) continued to grow.

Even though employment of EP holders fell by 3,400 in the first half, this was offset by a bigger increase in S-Pass holders by 5,300. Apparently, many of the former EP holders are holding S-Pass now due to the raising of EP qualifying salary last year. So, in actual fact, the number of foreign PMETs (EP and S-Pass holders together) has increased in the first half of 2018.

It is interesting to note that while MTI has maintained a healthy growth forecast for the Singapore economy at 2.5 – 3.5% this year, unemployment rate for Singapore citizens continues to inch up.

"MOM and Workforce Singapore (WSG) will work closely with unions, companies, and economic agencies to press on with efforts that will prepare workers and businesses for changes in the economy and labour market. For example, more Professional Conversion Programmes, which equip workers for new roles and functions, will retrain workers even before they are displaced, in addition to helping unemployed jobseekers," MOM said.

Retrenched Singaporean PMET ended-up driving Grab

In any case, many retrenched Singaporean PMETs are indeed changing careers through a "conversion programme" that has nothing to do with MOM nor WSG. Many ended up driving Grab cars.

Jenny's husband is a case in point, as highlighted in transitioning.org, a support site for the unemployed Singaporeans.

Jenny's husband was retrenched 5 years ago and couldn't get a job. The husband then went into a depression and had to see a psychiatrist. With the depression, it became even harder for him to find a job.

Jenny asked her husband to consider driving Grab to at least do something to get an income. The husband refused, probably thinking that it's not appropriate for a PMET.

After 5 years, the husband finally picked up the courage to drive Grab.

Jenny then wrote to Gilbert Goh, the person running transitioning.org, "Hi Gilbert, thank you for your follow up. He has started working. He finally picked up courage and applied to drive Grab. He feels happy with what he is doing – no office polities, easy goals. If customers are tough, he only sees them once. I am glad for the change, after 5 long years!"

MOM and WSG should really thank Grab for helping to solve the "skill mismatch" issue amongst our Singaporean PMETs.

Meanwhile, Jenny's husband might just pick up an FT passenger who happened to replace him!