Singapore Labour Report 2017: The lowdown

The results are in, and despite positive trends among certain demographics, overall labour growth still looks weak.

An advance release of Singapore’s 2017 Labour Report is out, and the findings show that the employment market remains tepid.

The not-so-good news

On the whole, employment rate among residents aged 15 and over fell from 65.3% in 2016 to 64.9% this year, which the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) says reflects an ageing population.

MOM says the lower employment rate is also due to those aged 15 to 24 delaying their entry into the workforce in favour of higher education.

Labour force participation rate for residents aged 15 and over also declined slightly from 68.0% in 2016 to 67.7% in 2017, the lowest in over a decade.

In terms of unemployment, resident unemployment rate rose from 3.0% in June 2016 to 3.1% in June 2017, even though there was sign of improvement in the second quarter of 2017. Unemployment is at its highest since 2010.

Some signs of improvement

However, there were some signs of improvement for certain demographics.

For residents aged 25 to 64, total employment rose from 80.3% in 2016 to 80.7% in 2017. Similarly, the employment rate for residents aged 65 and over also increased, from 25.5% to 25.8%.

For Professionals, Managers. Executives and Technicians (PMETs), unemployment dropped to 3.0% in 2017 from 3.1% last year, breaking an upward trend since 2012.

The long-term unemployment rate for PMETs also improved from 0.9% in 2016 to 0.7% in 2017. MOM credits this to increased worker aids following enhancements to the Adapt & Grow programmes which assist PMETs, especially those aged 40 and over, in securing employment.

Finally, median income also grew at a faster pace in 2017. Year-on-year, the real median monthly income (including employer CPF contributions) for full-time employed residents increased by 3.7% to S$4,232 in 2017. This is bigger than the real income growth of 3.3% in 2016.

What MOM says

Despite the presence of positive trends, MOM still remains largely pessimistic about Singapore’s labour growth, which it expects to slow further in the coming years.

It adds that for real income growth to be sustained, firms will have to continue to transform and grow to become more productive.

“In a manpower-lean environment, it is also important for firms to adopt progressive human capital practices. They will have to invest in their workers and build inclusive workplaces to value every employee regardless of age, gender and qualification,” says the ministry.

“We will need to press on with efforts to help low-wage workers be better deployed, allow older workers to remain in employment longer, and make available more flexible work arrangements, especially for those with caregiving responsibilities.”

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