Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has released its Labour Market Report 2018, confirming preliminary estimates that the total employment as well as local employment grew, by 38,300 and 27,400 respectively, in 2018.

Growth was also seen in S Pass holders by 11,100, across all sectors. The increase was led by the Services sector, with the highest growth seen in Administrative & Support Services, Food Services, Information & Communications, Professional Services, and Transportation & Storage.

On the other hand, Employment Pass (EP) holders continue to decline across sectors in 2018, as a result of the raising of the EP qualifying salary in January 2017. Over the last two years, the number of EP holders has declined by 6,400.

The report cited: "Reducing the Dependency Ratio Ceiling (DRC) and S Pass sub-DRC in the Services sector from next year will help to keep the labour market tight to sustain the impetus for restructuring, and support good employment outcomes for Singaporeans."

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Declines were also seen in the annual average unemployment rate (fell to 2.9% in 2018) and long-term unemployment rates (fell to 0.7% in 2018) for residents, which were both lower than a year ago.

The nation also saw significantly fewer retrenchments, wherein they declined to 10,730 in 2018, compared to the 14,720 in 2017. The decrease was seen across the three broad sectors, Manufacturing, Construction and Services. This mainly reflected the fall in retrenchments attributed by retrenching companies to poor business or downturn in the industry, as the economy continued to expand in 2018.

Reflecting further tightness in the labour market, the seasonally-adjusted job vacancies to unemployed persons ratio rose to 1.10 in December 2018, higher than a year ago (0.94).

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Overall labour productivity {as measured by real value-added (VA) per actual hour worked} grew by 3.7% in 2018, slower than the 4.9% growth in 2017. In terms of real VA per worker, productivity rose by 2.5%, lower than the 4.1% growth in 2017.

The growth in productivity reflected in Singaporean workers continuing to earn higher incomes. The real median income (including employer CPF contributions) of full-time employed Singaporeans increased by 3.6% p.a. from 2013 to 2018, significantly higher than the 1.7% p.a. in the previous five years.

Over the last five years from 2013 to 2018, real income at the 20th percentile grew faster (4.3% p.a.) than at the median (3.6% p.a.).

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Based on yearly averages, paid working hours continued its downtrend from 2013 to reach 44.8 hours in 2018. By industry, the decline in hours worked over the year was observed across the three broad sectors.

Within services, the decrease was more pronounced in security & investigation and food & beverage services. Conversely, workers in electronics manufacturing and cleaning & landscaping saw a larger increase in their paid hours worked.

Labour market outlook for 2019

In 2019, local workforce growth is expected to remain modest due to the underlying demographics of an ageing population. The labour market is expected to remain tight, with job opportunities available in sectors such as Information & Communications, Financial & Insurance Services, Healthcare, Professional Services, Wholesale Trade and the Built Environment.

Images / Government of Singapore