A total 3,230 employees were retrenched in Singapore in the first quarter of 2019, up from the previous quarter (2,510) and a year ago (2,320). This increase was driven by the manufacturing (from 380 to 1,040), of which the most affected were production & related workers from the electronics sector.
As a result, electronics formed 18% of retrenchments in the first quarter of 2019, followed by services industries such as wholesale trade (16%) and transportation & storage (10%), as confirmed by Ministry of Manpower's Labour Market Report First Quarter 2019.
The key reasons for the layoffs? Restructuring and reorganisation. However, there was also a rise in the share of retrenchments from the previous quarter due to high costs and downturn in the industry.
Among retrenched residents, professionals, managers, executives & technicians (PMETs) continued to make up the majority (69%), as they form a higher share of the workforce.
Profile Of Retrenched Residents, First Quarter 2019
Nonetheless, the six-month re-entry rate among retrenched residents rose for the second consecutive quarter to 66% in the first quarter of 2019.
The increase was observed for most age, education and occupational groups, except for residents aged below 30, clerical, sales & service workers, as well as the post-secondary (non-tertiary) educated.
While PMETs and degree holders continued to observe below-average re-entry rates, their rates have trended up from the first quarter of 2018.
The labour market held up in Q1 2019
Overall, despite the economy slowing down, total employment (excluding foreign domestic workers, or FDW) grew by 10,700 in Q1 2019, higher than Q1 2018 but lower than the festive-season growth witness in Q4 2018.
Services was the main driver of total employment growth, while construction posted its first employment gain in three years, reflecting an increase in both public and private sector construction activities.
The resident unemployment rate held steady, while long-term unemployment rate declined. However, while there continued to be more job vacancies than job seekers, the tightness in the labour market may ease, as job vacancies declined for the first time in two years and retrenchments rose in this quarter.
NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Patrick Tay has responded to the report, saying close attention needs to be paid to to employment rate, labour productivity, long-term unemployment and workforce/training participation rate - adding that economic uncertainties as well as structural challenges will remain the two main challenges in 2019.
"While retrenchments have been, on a whole, lower in 2018, the figures in Q1 hint at retrenchments picking up. We need to continue to pay close watch to figures in the upcoming quarters and expect to see fluctuations from quarter to quarter especially with the continued US-China trade tensions," he explained.
For employers, he advised them to up-skill, re-skill and second-skill local workers so that they stay engaged, empowered, employed and employable.
He added: "Both workers and businesses need to cultivate a mindset of agility and adaptability in order to effectively respond to economic transformation, economic uncertainties and an evolving workforce. Employers should also continue their efforts to transform and improve job quality for Singaporeans while maintaining business competitiveness."
Among the other notable findings, after seven preceding quarters of increases, the demand for labour eased, with fewer seasonally-adjusted job vacancies in March 2019 (57,100) compared to December 2018 (62,300).
There continued to be more vacancies than job seekers, although the seasonally-adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons dipped slightly from 1.10 in December 2018 to 1.08 in March 2019.
All images / MOM