Singapore's labour market "weakened" in 2016: MOM

Resident unemployment rate crept up to its highest since 2010, on the back of more redundancies and fewer job vacancies. 

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in its official 2016 labour report that Singapore's labour market "weakened" last year. 

The annual average resident unemployment rate reached its highest since 2010, creeping up to 3.0% in 2016 from 2.8% in 2015, the report revealed. 

Residents aged 30 to 39, those above 50, as well as individuals with secondary and degree qualifications, saw the largest unemployment increase. 

Resident long-term unemployment rate, though still low, rose from 0.6% in 2015 to 0.8% last year.

MOM attributed the rising unemployment to a larger number of redundancies and fewer job vacancies. 

Redundancies also continued an upward trend since 2010, with a decline in residents’ re-entry rates.

Redundancies rose to 19,170 in 2016, due "mainly to business restructuring and reorganisation". But this is still lower than the recessionary high in 2009 (23,430).

After a slight increase in the previous quarter (September 2016: 50,800), job vacancies declined to 47,600 in December 2016, the lowest since December 2012. Coupled with an increase in unemployed persons, the seasonally-adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons fell to 0.77, the lowest since September 2009 (0.54). 

Total employment also grew at a slower rate, which MOM says "reflects cyclical weakness in parts of the economy, a structural slowdown in local labour force growth, and tightened foreign worker policy".

Total employment (excluding Foreign Domestic Workers) grew by 8,600 in 2016, significantly lower than the 23,300 recorded in 2015.

But this figure is even further away from the annual average growth of 120,000 seen between 2010 and 2014.

Figure 1: Local Employment Change - Overall Economy

Source: Ministry of Manpower

There is some good news on the local employment front, which grew by 11,200 in 2016, up from the flat growth in 2015 (700).

Still, this is lower than the numbers recorded in the earlier part of this decade, which peaked at nearly 95,000 in 2014.

In line with the Ministry of Trade and Industry’s forecast of modest GDP growth (1.0 to 3.0%) in 2017, MOM expects labour demand to remain modest as well.

Over the next three to five years, total workforce growth is expected to be in the range of 25,000 to 40,000, significantly lower than in the years leading up to 2014. 

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