WED, DEC 01, 2021 

SHARON SEE

SINGAPORE’S resident employment rate rebounded beyond pre-Covid-19 levels as the labour market makes a broad-based recovery, but several other labour indicators continued to lag, according to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) advance release of its annual Labour Force in Singapore (LFAR) 2021 on Wednesday (Dec 1).

The employment rate for residents rose to 67.2 per cent in June this year, compared with 64.5 per cent a year ago. This is higher than the pre-pandemic level of 65.2 per cent recorded in June 2019.

The improvement, which is broad-based across different demographics, reflects the economic recovery as well as the impact from government measures such as the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package (SGUJS), Jobs Support Scheme and Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI), said MOM.

As of end-September, more than 146,000 job seekers have been placed into jobs, attachment and training opportunities under the SGUJS. Meanwhile, the JGI supported 58,000 businesses to hire more than 400,000 locals between September 2020 and May 2021.

In particular, the employment rate of youths aged 15 to 24 rose to 37.2 per cent in June, up from 30.9 per cent a year ago. One reason for this is an increase in temporary positions related to managing Covid-19, including safe-distancing ambassadors as well as staff manning entrances and exits at shopping malls, said an MOM spokesperson.

The employment rate of seniors aged 65 and above also continued to increase through last year’s recession, reaching 31.7 per cent in June this year, up from 28.5 per cent in June 2020.

Despite the improvement in employment levels, Singapore’s non-seasonally-adjusted resident unemployment rate has remained elevated beyond pre-pandemic levels.

Unemployment rate for resident professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) dipped to 3.4 per cent in June, down from 3.5 per cent a year ago. During the same period in 2019, the figure was 2.9 per cent.

Resident non-PMETs saw unemployment rates drop to 5.1 per cent in June, compared with 6.4 per cent a year ago, but this was still higher than the pre-pandemic level of 4.7 per cent.

Explaining the apparent contradiction, Ang Boon Heng, director of MOM’s manpower research and statistics department, said the elevated unemployment rate reflects several factors.

These include job churn, where there is a higher level of movements in between jobs as the economy recovers, continued difficulties in looking for work among workers who were laid off from sectors such as retail, food and beverage and air transport, as well as more people who were previously outside the labour force coming back to work.

“Hence, we see an improvement in the employment rate but unemployment rate continues to lag because there are all these movements going around,” Ang said.

Meanwhile, resident long-term unemployment rates held steady at 0.8 per cent for PMETs and 0.9 per cent for non-PMETs after increasing last year, according to MOM.

The elevated long-term unemployment rate compared to pre-pandemic levels suggests that some workers who were displaced earlier faced challenges in their job search, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the nominal median income of full-time residents grew by 3.2 per cent in June after falling 0.6 per cent a year ago. After accounting for inflation, real median income growth was 1.1 per cent, up from the 0.4 per cent decline in the year-ago period.

Real income of full-timers at the 20th percentile rose by 4.6 per cent in June, recovering to around pre-Covid-19 levels, MOM said. After including government transfers, the income of this group surpassed its pre-Covid-19 level by 0.6 per cent per annum.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said although the labour market has seen improvements being made in strides, it is not fully back to pre-Covid-19 levels.

“Even as resident employment has posted strong growth and demand for manpower is rebounding, there are still pockets of job seekers who are facing challenges,” Dr Tan said following a ministerial visit to Raffles Hotel, adding that the Republic has to press on with its transformation efforts.

Asked about the potential impact of the new Omicron variant on the labour market, Dr Tan said it is too early to say, but added that what the ministry can do is to remain very responsive and targeted on the specific areas of the workforce where support is most needed.