Josephine Teo (Photo: Bloomberg)

Minister Teo: Many companies will tell you they are still very short of people

The Manpower Ministry (MOM) released an Advanced Labour Force report for 2019 yesterday (28 Nov). It said that overall the resident unemployment rate remained low in June 2019.

“The PMET unemployment rate (non-seasonally adjusted) held steady at 2.9% in June 2019 while their long-term unemployment rate decreased from 0.8% in June 2018 to 0.6% in June 2019,” it wrote.

“On the other hand, cyclical effects such as the US-China trade conflict that affected manufacturing output and retail trade caused the unemployment rate for non-PMETs to increase from 4.0% a year ago to 4.7% in June 2019. However, the increase in their long-term unemployment rate was slight, from 0.7% to 0.8%.”

MOM, however, did not breakdown the unemployment rate for PRs and Singaporeans separately. The government usually lumps PR and Singaporean statistics together under the ‘resident’ category in its reports.

In an interview with the media on Wednesday (27 Nov), Manpower Minister Josephine Teo described the current economic situation as “persistent showers but with pockets of sunshine”.

However, she said that comparing with other crisis years, the present economic situation is much better. During the 2009 global financial crisis, she said that Singapore’s job market was hit much harder.

“At the time, a regular year’s retrenchment for Singapore was around 15,000, and analysts were projecting 2009 job losses to hit 100,000. So (it was a) really sudden downpour, a thunderstorm. You don’t see that today,” she said.

Similarly, the economic crisis caused by the 2003 Sars outbreak, the downturn after the 9/11 attacks and the bursting of the dotcom bubble in 2001, and the Asian Financial Crisis of 1998 were “very, very frightening years” for Singapore, she added.

“But actually if you compare today to those years, I think it’s not the same,” she said. “There are difficulties but there are also opportunities at this time.”

When asked about the disconnect between Government statistics showing employment growth and ground sentiment that jobs are not readily available, she said that the Government needs to find more ways to show job seekers where the available jobs are.

She added, “And I think we also keep in mind that at any one time our unemployment is maybe about 3 per cent. Now even with a resident workforce of 2.3 million, 3 per cent is still about 60,000 people. So, for 60,000 people to tell you that they haven’t seen the jobs, it’s not so surprising itself. But weigh that against the 97 per cent who are in jobs, you also can reflect their views.”

“There are many companies that will tell you that they are still very short of people,” she said.

She also encouraged job seekers to make use of Government schemes like the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) and Place and Train Programme to help them.

Number of foreign PMETs continues to increase in Singapore

Meanwhile, the Singapore government continues to allow more foreign PMETs to enter into Singapore to work, according to data on MOM website:

The total number of foreign EP and S-Pass holders was 381,300 by end of 2018. In fact, 6 months later by end June 2019, that number had increased to 386,800.

The national Jobs Bank which is supposed to force companies to “fairly” consider Singaporean PMETs first before they are permitted to hire foreign ones is constantly being abused by companies.

Companies are supposed to put up their job advertisements on Jobs Bank for 14 days so as to give Singaporeans a chance to apply before the companies can apply for an EP to recruit foreign PMETs:

However, many companies have in fact already had a foreign recruit in mind before putting up their job advertisement on Jobs Bank, merely to “show compliance”, so that they can go ahead to apply EP for the foreign job applicant. When MOM inquires, the company could easily say no Singaporeans were able to qualify.

Here is an example taken from an expat forum showing how Jobs Bank was abused by a company. In this case, the company had already offered a job to a foreign PMET but forgot to put up the job advertisement on Jobs Bank:

 

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