Singapore’s unemployment rate up but jobs grow by 3 times in 3Q; Teo says due to applicants take longer to land job

The Manpower Ministry (MOM) released a report today (12 Dec) revealing that the unemployment rate has gone up.

The unemployment rate for Singaporeans has gone up from 3.2 per cent in the previous quarter to 3.3 per cent in the last quarter (Jul-Sep 19). Including Permanent Residents (PRs), the unemployment rate for the local residents went up from 3.1 to 3.2 per cent. Long term unemployment rate went up from 0.6% in June 2019 to 0.7% in September 2019.

The overall rate including foreigners rose to 2.3 per cent from 2.2 per cent in the previous quarter.

But MOM said employment grew in the third quarter. Total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, grew by a revised 21,700 in the third quarter – over three times the 6,200-job growth in the previous quarter and the 16,700 in the same period last year.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said at a media briefing that one reason for the mixed picture of employment growth and increased unemployment could be that applicants are taking longer to land a job. “We believe (that) to be the case,” she said.

The hiring process can take longer because applicants may need more time to persuade employers to get them on board, she added. Another factor could be that the applicant may have a clearer idea of what he or she wants, assuming that they have had previous work experience, and take a longer time to find a suitable opening, she commented.

Another possibility she mentioned is that there could be a higher number of job seekers returning to the workforce after a break resulting in the higher unemployment rate. “Just by the virtue of more people looking for a job, unemployment will also go up,” she said.

She noted the higher employment growth was achieved in the third quarter, although she didn’t give a breakdown of how many of those jobs went to foreign nationals.

“(The higher employment growth) suggests to us that there is still some resilience in the labour market because it is still growing in spite of the economic headwinds,” she said.

Number of foreign PMETs continues to increase

Meanwhile, more foreign PMETs are getting jobs in Singapore, 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 this year, that number had increased to 386,800 – a 1.4% increase in 6 months.

The national Jobs Bank which is supposed to force companies to “fairly” consider Singaporean PMETs first before they are permitted to hire foreign ones appears not to be doing its job.

Ms Teo who is also in charge of population matters in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), said in Parliament back in 2018 that Singapore is not expected to change its immigration policy, and its population is likely to be “significantly below” 6.9 million by 2030.

She revealed that 22,076 Singapore citizenships were granted in 2017, about the same as in the past five years, while the permanent resident population remained largely stable at around 530,000, with 31,849 PRs granted last year.

PRs must be a holder of an Employment Pass or S Pass or foreign investor. For one to become a Singapore citizen, one has to be a Singapore Permanent Resident (PR) for at least two years, aged 21 above and have been residing in Singapore for more than 3 years.

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