Singapore, Ministry of Manpower, MOM, Labour Force. Employment, Unemployment, Retrenchment, Report

While the report noted that Singapore’s overall labour market performed better in 3Q 2021 compared to the previous quarter, recovery still remains uneven across sectors.

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower has recently released its Labour Market Report for Q3 2021.

While Singapore’s overall labour market performed better in 3Q 2021 compared to the previous quarter, recovery still remains uneven across sectors. The report has identified several key finding: 

Resident employment grew by 19,100, while non-resident employment fell (-21,500)

Total employment experienced a significantly smaller decline of -2,400 in 3Q 20211 in comparison to the previous quarter's decline of -16,300. This was particularly due to a strong growth in resident employment of 19,100. However, non-resident employment fell (-21,500) at a pace similar to 2Q 2021.

Diving deeper, the report found that the growth in resident employment was led by outward-oriented sectors of oinformation & communications, professional services, and financial services; as well as domestically-oriented sectors of administrative & support services and health & social services.

However, resident employment growth in consumer and tourism-related sectors such as food & beverage services, arts, entertainment & recreation, accommodation, and retail trade continued to trail behind the other sectors. Ongoing border restrictions contributed to the continued contraction of non-resident employment across most industries.

Unemployment rates continued to improve, but remain above pre-COVID levels

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rates declined further from August to September 2021: overall unemployment dropped by -0.1%-point to 2.6%. Similarly, the resident unemployment rate declined by -0.1%-point as well, reaching 3.5%. Citizen unemployment rate remained the highest at 3.7% even after a -0.1%-point drop.

However, the resident long-term unemployment rate increased to 1.2% in September 2021 from 0.9% in June2.

The latest October 2021 data shows continued improvement in unemployment rates.

The full report also covers long-term unemployment by gender, age and highest qualification attained amongst various other findings

Retrenchments declined, while the six-month re-entry rate among retrenched residents improved

The number of retrenchments declined from 2,340, or 1.3 retrenched per 1,000 employees, to 1,900 - 1.1. The six-month re-entry rate among retrenched residents improved by 2% in 3Q 2021 from 64% to 66%, back to the rate seen in 1Q 2021.

The report observed that there were fewer employees who were placed on short work-week or temporary layoff in 3Q 2021 (4,060) compared to 2Q (5,580), though the number remained above pre-pandemic levels. Particularly, there was a notable decrease in air transport & supporting services, as firms started to ramp up capacity in anticipation of some resumption in air travel. he full report further covered resident retrenchment by occupation, educational attainment, age and gender, and long-term unemployment by gender, age and highest qualification attained amongst various other findings. 

The full report provides further insights on resident retrenchment by occupation, educational attainment, age and gender.

Job vacancies rose amidst continued border restrictions on foreign labour inflow 

The number of job vacancies2 increased further increased to 98,700 in September 2021 from from 92,100 in June 2021. Despite this, the pace of increase has slowed as a whole. Together with the decline in unemployed persons, the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons trended higher. There were 209 job vacancies for every 100 unemployed persons in September 2021 - up from 163 the previous quarter.

The increase in job vacancies should be observed in the context of border restrictions on the inflow of foreign labour, which has led to total employment declining by 173,100 since December 2019, notwithstanding strong resident employment growth. In particular, sectors which have seen substantial decreases in Work Permit holders, namely ManufacturingConstructionFood & Beverage Services, and Administrative & Support Services, accounted for 38% of all job vacancies.

The report expects the number of job vacancies, and the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons, to remain high until border restrictions are lifted.

At the same time, there was sustained demand in growth sectors such as Professional ServicesFinancial ServicesInformation & Communications, and Health & Social Services, where resident employment also increased in tandem. The report noted that in-demand occupations include Software, Web & Multimedia Developers, Systems Analysts, Commercial & Marketing Sales Executives, Accountants, and Nurses.

The report concludes that, alongside the projected economic growth, the labour market is expected to continue on its recovery trajectory for the remainder of 2021 and into 2022, but unevenly across sectors. The labour market will also become tighter as border restrictions continue to constrain manpower supply from overseas. However, the Government and our tripartite partners will continue to support employers to accelerate the pace of transformation, become more manpower-lean and strengthen their local workforce. 

MOM further encouraged employers with unfilled vacancies to consider a wider pool of jobseekers, including the unemployed, those from different sectors, and mature workers. 

In a Facebook post analysing the report, Patrick Tay, NTUC's Assistant Secretary-General commented: "With positive economic figures for 2021 forecasted as well as a gradual and incremental recovery of deeply affected sectors supported by strong showing of several major sectors such as the modern services sector (financial, ICT and professional services) as well as bright sparks like supply chain/logistics/shipping, I expect a continued positive outlook going into 2022 from labour market and economic perspectives."

NTUC's Assistant Secretary-General Desmond Choo added: "Though the overall picture is hopeful, recovery continues to be uneven and would be affected by downside risks such as the new Omicron Covid-19 variant and continued constraints in manpower supply from overseas. The economic climate remains relatively uncertain in the near term and more policy support might be needed if the global economy takes a hit from the Omicron variant."

1 excluding Migrant Domestic Workers (MDW)

2 seasonally adjusted

Photos / Ministry of Manpower Labour Market Report for Q3 2021

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