SINGAPORE: Singapore’s labour market improved slightly in the first quarter of 2018, with retrenchments falling to a five-year low and the resident unemployment rate declining to 2.8 per cent, the lowest level since March 2016.
Figures released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday (Jun 13) showed that in the first quarter of 2018, 2,320 workers were retrenched, compared with 3,680 in the fourth quarter of 2017.
The latest retrenchment numbers were also at the lowest since the first quarter of 2013, when it was 2,120.
MOM said the decline was broad-based across manufacturing, construction and services and that the main reason for retrenchment continues to be business restructuring and reorganisation.
The six-month re-entry rate into employment of retrenched residents declined marginally to 61 per cent in the first quarter of the year, from 63 per cent in the previous quarter.
The decline was more notable among Professional, Managers, Executives & Technicians (PMETs), those with diploma and post-secondary qualifications, as well as those aged from 30 to 39, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, the re-entry rate rose among those aged below 30, aged 50 and over, and for those with secondary and below qualifications.
DECLINE IN RESIDENT UNEMPLOYMENT RATE
The seasonally adjusted resident long-term unemployment rate also edged down in the first quarter to 0.7 per cent in March, from 0.8 per cent in December.
Overall, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate came in at 2 per cent, an improvement from the 2.1 per cent in December last year. For residents, the unemployment rate was 2.8 per cent, down from 3 per cent, and the rate remained unchanged at 3 per cent for Singapore citizens.
Meanwhile, total employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, grew slightly. The increase of 400 was a reversal from the first quarter of 2017, when the figure declined 9,400.
MOM attributed this to employment growth in the services sectors, which they said more than offsett declines in work permit holders in the construction and marine shipyard sectors.
The ministry said it expects overall labour demand to expand this year, albeit unevenly across sectors.
Job opportunities will be available in the finance and insurance, infocomms and media, healthcare, professional services, logistics and wholesale trade sectors, it added. Hiring is expected to remain cautious in the construction and marine shipyard sector.
To keep unemployment low, the ministry said, it is critical to prepare workers and businesses to be “agile and responsive to economic restructuring and the evolving employment landscape”.
“MOM and Workforce Singapore will support workers in upgrading their skillsets for new opportunities through the Adapt and Grow initiative, while helping businesses to innovate and transform through the Lean Enterprise Development (LED) Scheme and the Capability Transfer Programme (CTP),” said MOM.
SKILLS AND JOBS MISMATCHES WILL CONTINUE TO BE A CHALLENGE: PATRICK TAY
Structural challenges such as skills and jobs mismatches will be the main causes of unemployment in Singapore in the near and medium term, said NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay.
“For the first half of 2018, I expect retrenchment figures to remain low but we will expect to still see pockets of layoffs due to re-organisation, restructuring and re-strategisation amidst technological/digital disruption and the rise of cloud, machine and crowd,” Mr Tay said in a Facebook post on Wednesday.
He also noted that it will become even more challenging to further reduce the unemployment rate in light of the low figure.
As such, Mr Tay said, tripartite partners need to continue to work even closer together to overcome the structural challenges.
The labour movement will also work to encourage best practices in hiring and retaining older workers, he added.