Singapore, Employment, Unemployment, Retrenchment, Labour market, Ministry of Manpower

At the same time, unemployment rates held steady at pre-pandemic levels in July 2022; while retrenchments fell to a "record low".

According to the Labour Market Second Quarter 2022 report by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), Singapore's labour market continued to recover in Q2 2022, with total employment reaching 99.5% of the pre-pandemic level in December 2019.

Resident employment continued to rise, and was 4.2% above the pre-pandemic level in June 2022. Meanwhile, non-resident employment "increased significantly" following the relaxation of border restrictions in April 2022, but remained 10% below the pre-pandemic level.

At the same time, unemployment rates remained low (overall: 2.1%, resident: 2.9%, citizen: 3.0%) and the resident long-term unemployment rate improved to 0.7%, comparable to the pre-pandemic average.

Lastly, retrenchments fell to a record low of 990; and the number of job vacancies eased slightly (126,100).

Employment, unemployment, and retrenchments

Looking at the overall first half (H1) of 2022, total employment in Singapore (excluding migrant domestic workers) continued to expand (108,500) and recovered to around pre-pandemic level by June 2022 (99.5% of the level in December 2019). This increase, MOM noted, was mainly contributed by non-residents (95,400), particularly in construction and manufacturing, as employers backfilled positions following the significant relaxation of border controls in April 2022. Non-resident employment rose across all pass types, with the bulk coming from work permit & other work passes:

  • Work permit & other work passes: 80,900;
  • S Pass: 7,400, and
  • EP: 7,100

Resident employment grew steadily in the first half of the year (13,100), with the largest increases recorded in growth sectors such as financial & insurance services, information & communications, and professional services.

On the unemployment front, unemployment rates held steady at pre-pandemic levels in July 2022 (overall: 2.1%, resident: 2.9%, citizen: 3.0%). Resident long-term unemployment rate declined for the third consecutive quarter, returning to the pre-pandemic average of 0.7% in June 2022.

Apart from the above, the report highlighted a decline in retrenchments, reaching a "record low" – from 1,320 in Q1 2022, to 990 in Q2 2022.

Similarly, the incidence of retrenchment improved from 0.6 to 0.5 per 1,000 employees. Among retrenched residents, the percentage who re-entered employment within six months post retrenchment fell from last quarter’s high (from 72% to 66%), but remained higher than the same period a year ago (64%).

Shorter workweeks, job vacancies, and more

The number of employees placed on short work-week, or temporary layoffs, declined from 670 in Q1 2022 to 590 in Q2 2022, according to the findings. The majority of these employees were placed on short work-week arrangements (570), with few laid off temporarily (20).

Next, after "seven quarters of increases", the number of job vacancies dipped slightly to 126,100 in June 2022, but remained at "historically high levels." As unemployment rates declined further, the ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons edged up slightly from 2.42 in March 2022 to 2.53 in June 2022.

Lastly, the recruitment rate rose over the quarter (from 2.5% to 2.6%) to a rate last seen in 2014, MOM shared. On the other hand, the resignation rate remained stable at 1.7% for the fourth consecutive quarter.

By sector over the quarter, accommodation and air transport & supporting services saw the largest increase in recruitment rates. Other consumer-facing and tourism-related sectors also saw recruitment rate rise, as employers ramped up hiring to meet increased demand arising from the rollout of the Vaccinated Travel Framework.

What's in store for the labour market?

As the report pointed out, with the significant easing of Singapore’s COVID-19 restrictions, business activities in sectors which had been badly affected by the pandemic have been observed to be recovering. Thus, looking ahead, MOM expects non-resident employment to "continue growing at a robust pace" as it catches up to its pre-pandemic level, which will ease labour market tightness.

Resident employment, which is 4.2% above 2019 levels, will likely see subdued growth given the low resident unemployment rate, it added.

However, the external demand outlook has weakened given the "global economic slowdown". Global headwinds may weigh on labour demand going forward. As such, the labour market outlook is uneven across sectors.

On a more positive note, tourism- and aviation-related sectors are expected to continue to benefit from the strong recovery in air passengers and international visitor arrivals. Demand in consumer-facing sectors such as food & beverage services should remain robust with the easing of domestic and border restrictions. On the other hand, growth in outward-oriented sectors such as finance & insurance services is expected to slow amid global economic headwinds.

Overall, he labour market continued to make significant improvements in 2Q 2022. However, MOM cautions of potential heightened economic uncertainty ahead. To ensure that businesses grow sustainably and remain resilient, MOM encourages businesses to press on with transformation, increase labour productivity and diversify their non-resident workforce.

"Businesses should also strengthen their Singaporean core through reskilling and offering flexible work arrangements to tap on more workforce segments such as older workers and caregivers," it affirmed.

To help do so, MOM reminds businesses of available resources such as the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI), the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programmen, and the Productivity Solutions Grant.

Image / Labour Market Second Quarter 2022

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