The recent figures released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) indicated that the number of foreign professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) has slowly been creeping up since 2015 (‘Number of foreign PMETs in Singapore hits 400K; largest increase last year since 2015 GE‘).
At the end of last year, the number of foreign PMETs (Employment Pass and S Pass holders) hit almost 400K at 393,700 in Singapore. This was the largest annual increase at 3.3% since the last general election in 2015.
Not only the foreign PMET number is creeping up, the unemployment rate among Singaporeans is also going up. The overall unemployment rate (seasonally adjusted) in Singapore was 2.4% in the first three months of this year while that of citizens was 3.5%, the highest in the last 10 years.
Analysts expect unemployment situation in Singapore to get worse
Moving forward, analysts are generally pessimistic about the unemployment situation in Singapore in view of the current COVID-19 outbreak. More firms are expected to shed more headcount in order to cut cost.
According to DBS Group Research, unemployment rate could hit 4.2% by year-end amongst residents. For citizens, the unemployment rate would certainly be higher.
DBS expects total retrenchments to rise to 45,600 this year. It noted that even with the government’s support measures’ totaling $68.8b, a significant number of jobs could still be lost as the economy dips into an unprecedented deep recession.
“Companies may have to shed more headcounts to bring manpower costs to be in line with the fall in earnings. In addition, some companies with weaker financial standings could go belly up,” said Irvin Seah, economist at DBS Group Research. “The Singapore economy could sink into a deep and protracted recession. Many companies may crumble, and more jobs could be lost.”
He also added even if Singapore succeeds in bringing down the number of local cases, it will still be a long way before economic activities resume to normalcy. DBS is projecting Singapore’s headline GDP to fall 7% in the coming two quarters and may remain in negative territory until Q2 2021. It noted that it could contract by 7.8% this year if the COVID-19 situation gets worse.
Would MOM continue to allow foreign PMETs to flood Singapore?
Even as Singaporeans are struggling to find jobs in the current COVID-19 outbreak, many foreigners are keen to get a job in Singapore.
On 27 Mar, a foreign expat posted a message on a popular expat forum asking for advice from fellow expats with regard to his wife’s Employment Pass (EP) application (‘French company allegedly games Jobs Bank amidst COVID-19 outbreak‘).
The poster who claimed to be an EP holder himself, said that he and his wife have been living in Singapore for the past 10 years. His wife was on Dependant’s Pass (DP) till Aug 2018 when she obtained her own EP and started working as a risk and compliance expert in a Pharmaceutical company drawing $10,000 a month.
Then in Jan this year, she got a new offer from a French company, which offered her $13,000 a month. After accepting the new offer, she duly resigned from her existing employer before securing an EP from the Manpower Ministry (MOM) to work for the new company.
“Her new company applied for her EP on February 18, but it was rejected. The reason given was that the salary in the job posting by the new company was lower then the one offered to my wife,” the expat explained. “The new company re-posted the job and kept it open for 14 days till March 12. Thereafter, they applied for my wife’s EP again.”
That it to say, when the French company re-posted the job on Jobs Bank, they have no intention of hiring any locals through the platform since they already have decided to hire the expat’s wife.
In any case, given the current mounting unemployment situation among Singaporeans this year due to the present COVID-19 outbreak, it’s not known if MOM would proceed to issue an EP for the expat’s wife so that she would be able to work for the French company at $13,000 a month.