Despite the slightly slower employment growth, more Singapore residents still held jobs at the end of 2019.
According to preliminary data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Thursday (30 Jan), the annual average employment rate for Singaporeans increased to 3.3 per cent, which is 3 per cent higher than in 2018.
The jobless rate last year for citizens and PRs combined increased to 3.2 per cent from 2.9 per cent in 2018 whereas the overall rate, with foreigners included, increased from 2.1 per cent to 2.3 per cent.
In 2019, retrenchments for the overall workforce were mildly lower at 10,700 compared to 10,730 in 2018.
At a media briefing on Thursday (30 Jan), Manpower Minister Josephine Teo remarked that 2019’s employment rates “are a concern but they are not alarming”. Citizen and resident unemployment rates have been stable at approximately 3 per cent for the past 10 years, she commented. However, from 2001 to 2009, due to shocks like the dot.com bubble, the Sars outbreak and the 2009 global financial crisis, unemployment rates were elevated at approximately 4 to 5 per cent.
Ms Teo remarked that “we must remember the context of better-than-expected employment growth and the absence of a spike in retrenchments. When you put the three together, this suggests that the challenge is not primarily lack of job creation but possible job-skills mismatches.” Despite the uncertainties and economic headwinds, local employment growth did exceed expectations.
The services industries such as professional services and information and communications, community, social and personal services saw strong growth in resident employment. However, wholesale trade and manufacturing experience contraction in resident employment.
Overall, there were 26,500 more residents in jobs in 2019 which is roughly 3 per cent lower than 27,400 in 2018.
The employment of foreigners, excluding maids, was faster in 2019 at 28,700 compared to the growth in 2018 at 10,900.
Last year, around half of the additional foreign workers owned work permit holders in the construction industry as it recovered. If these foreign workers were not included, the growth in remaining industries stands at 14,900.
Excluding foreign domestic workers employed throughout of last year, the total figure of employment is 55,200 more people, which was the highest annual growth since 2014.
Recently, the issue of access to good jobs for Singaporeans took centre stage and the occasional paper released by MOM last week shed light on the employment rate of Singapore citizens which has increased over the past ten years. In addition to this, working Singaporeans have also made up a bigger share of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs).
Comparing the total resident workforce and residents, the median real income increased faster at an average rate of 3.9 per cent yearly for the former and 3.8 per cent for the latter over the past five years.
Retrenchment in 2019 was 10,700, which was slightly lower than in 2018 at 10,703. Nonetheless, the figures increased over quarter three and four of 2019.
MOM report on Thursday suggested that construction sector saw fewer retrenchments compared to manufacturing and services where retrenchments were more over the full year.
Although it might be inevitable that the economy will take a toll due to the viral outbreak, the focus now should be to support the retrenched workers as well as minimizing such retrenchments, “The outlook has become more uncertain. The Wuhan virus situation, however, will not last forever. We have to address immediate concerns but keep an eye on the future, so for the longer term, we will help businesses to transform and adapt.” Ms Teo concluded.