Singapore's resident employment rates improved

In addition, the nation's labour market also saw an improvement in the unemployment rate, as well as in the income of lower-wage workers.

Singapore's resident employment rate rose above pre-COVID levels, according to the Ministry of Manpower's Manpower Research and Statistics Department's latest labour report, Labour Force in Singapore Advance Release 2021. The trend was said to be bolstered by tripartite efforts under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.

Minister for Manpower, Dr Tan See Leng, said he was relieved that the labour market has made good progress since the findings from last year. "The improvement is a reflection of the resilience and adaptability of our employers and workers, as well as the effort by tripartite partners on various fronts."

The Labour Force in Singapore Advance Release 2021 draws on fieldwork from the mid-year comprehensive labour force survey (CLFS) 2021; and analyses a wider range of labour market indicators, such as employment rate and income growth, which are not covered in the quarterly labour market reports.

Other findings from the report revealed that:

  • While the demand for temporary manpower—arising from COVID-related activities—contributed to higher employment, the number of residents in permanent jobs also grew;
  • Unemployment and time-related under-employment rates improved but remained above pre-COVID rates;
  • Nominal and real incomes for residents rose;
  • Although real income growth was moderated by higher inflation, it exceeded the slight decline in 2020;
  • Median income surpassed the pre-COVID level;
  • Income at the 20th percentile rose faster than median income, and to a level on par with pre-COVID, and
  • Workfare Income Supplement (WIS)-related payouts provided further boost to incomes of lower-wage workers.

Numbers & figures

Employment rate

The report stated that employment rate for residents aged 15 & over rebounded from 64.5% in June 2020 to 67.2% in June 2021, after declining from 65.2% in June 2019—which reflected economic recovery, and the positive impact of measures such as the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, Jobs Support Scheme and Jobs Growth Incentive on the labour market.

NTUC Assistant Secretary-General, Patrick Tay, noted improvement in the employment rate was broad-based across demographic profiles, which reflects economic recovery and measures to support employment. 

Splitting the figures into specific demographics, Singapore's employment rate is as follows:

  • Youths (aged 15 to 24) - the employment rate rose from 30.9% in June 2020 to 37.2% in June 20212. "This was mainly due to more students taking on part-time or temporary work on the sides," explained in the report;
  • Adults (aged 25 to 64) - the employment rate rose from 80.3% in June 2020 to 81.8% in June 2021;
  • Elderlies (aged 65 & over) - the employment rate rose to 28.5% in June last year despite the recession, and continued to increase at a faster pace to 31.7% as at June 2021. The report added that this sign is "supported by sustained efforts to raise the employability of seniors, such as the Senior Worker Early Adopter Grant", and
  • Gender - the employment rate for men increased from 87.9% to 88.9%, and from 73.2% to 75.1% for women.

In terms of permanent and temporary employment, the "vast majority of resident employees (88%)" were part of the former group, increasing its size by 50,900 in numbers. The latter group, meanwhile, witnessed an increase in demand at 8.4%, which was an increase from 7.3% in June 2020.

Unemployment rate

As for Singapore's unemployment rate, the non-seasonally adjusted rate for residents is as follows:

  • Non-PMETs improved from 6.4% in June 2020 to 5.1% in June 2021, and
  • PMETs also edged down from 3.5% to 3.4%.

These rates, according to the report, have yet to return to pre-COVID rates. As for long-term unemployment rates, they held steady at 0.8% for PMETs, and 0.9% for non-PMETs after increasing last year.

NTUC Assistant Secretary-General Desmond Choo shared that overall, it seems that the economy is recovering and that support measures have borne fruit despite the highly fluid situation - the latest being strengthened border measures in view of the Omicron variant. "An edging down of unemployment rates over the year reflects stabilising market adaptation to a COVID-affected economy." 

Time-related unemployment rate

The report also revealed that the resident time-related under-employment rate eased from 4.1% in June 2020 to 3.5% in June 2021. This is still "above pre-COVID rates".

"Most groups experienced improvements, including lower-educated and older workers who were more affected last year.

"Affected by the suspension of dine-in services and in-person tuition/enrichment classes during the Heightened Alert period, time-related under-employment rates were highest in food & beverage services and education in June 2021, and their rates were also higher than pre-COVID levels," explained in the report.

Income

With regard to income levels, the nominal median income of full-time employed residents grew in June 2021 (3.2%) after decreasing in June 2020 (-0.6%). The real income of full-timers at the 20th percentile rose by 4.6% in June 2021, and "recovered to around the pre-COVID level".

Looking at lower-wage workers in Singapore, over a five-year period (2016 to 2021), the report shared that their real income growth "remained strong, enabling them to continue to gain ground on median incomes".

"With government measures such as the Progressive Wage Model, real income growth at the 20th percentile (2.8% p.a.) of full-time employed residents was higher than the median income growth (2.2% p.a.)," the report added.

ASG Choo added on structural issues within the job market such as skills and expectations mismatches, which need to be consistently reviewed.

"We also see incomes for Lower-Wage Workers (LWWs) rising faster than the median wage, which is in tandem with the continued importance NTUC places on ensuring that LWWs are uplifted. In looking ahead, we should still be mindful that inflation may erode some on the gains from wage growth."


Image / 123RF

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