High-skilled workers make up bulk of lay offs in 2015

Of the Singaporeans and PRs who lost their jobs last year, more than seven in 10 were professionals, managers, executives and technicians, up from 67 per cent the year before.
Of the Singaporeans and PRs who lost their jobs last year, more than seven in 10 were professionals, managers, executives and technicians, up from 67 per cent the year before.ST FILE PHOTO

Group also less likely to be in new jobs within 6 months, along with older workers and degree holders

Higher-skilled workers, degree holders and middle-aged workers were the hardest hit by layoffs last year, making up more of the pool of resident workers made redundant than workers of other occupational, educational and age groups.

These groups were also less likely than other resident workers to be in employment within six months of being made redundant, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) statistics released yesterday showed.

Of the Singaporeans and permanent residents who lost their jobs last year, more than seven in 10 (71 per cent) were professionals, managers, executives and technicians, up from 66 per cent the year before.

This was disproportionately higher than their 54 per cent share of the resident workforce last year.

Between workers with different educational qualifications, degree holders made up the largest share - 44 per cent - of residents who lost their jobs last year. This was up from 41 per cent in 2014.

One in three of the resident workers made redundant last year was aged 40 to 49, despite this group making up only about one in four of the overall resident workforce.

Less than half of both degree holders and middle-aged workers who were made redundant in the third quarter of the year were back in employment by December.

Some workers could have decided to go for training or stop looking for a job, MOM said in its report.

But another reason could be that older workers already have preferences, such as not wanting to do shift work, said Ms Linda Teo, country manager of human resource firm ManpowerGroup Singapore.

"This means they won't be at the top of the list when employers sieve through applications."

Losing a job would be a blow for those over 40 years old and with higher skills as they tend to have higher financial obligations such as mortgages and children's study loans, but at the same time they are more costly to employers, said DBS economist Irvin Seah.

Adecco Singapore country manager Femke Hellemons said workers here often move from industry to industry for a comparative advantage, and skilled workers may take more time to find a job that they have the right skills for that also matches their pay expectations.

Losing a job would be a blow for those over 40 years old and with higher skills as they tend to have higher financial obligations such as mortgages and children's study loans, but at the same time they are more costly to employers, said DBS economist Irvin Seah.

Overall, redundancies rose over the year while the number of vacancies fell, which experts said was because of weak global demand.

"This could be a sign of companies adopting measures to achieve cost efficiencies through outsourcing, offshoring and adoption of technologies in their work processes," said Mr Foo See Yang, vice-president and country general manager of Kelly Services Singapore.

ManpowerGroup's Ms Teo said the employment pattern is likely to continue its downward slide, as hiring intentions for the next three months are at their weakest since the third quarter of 2009.

But some industries still showed demand for workers, with job openings continuing to outnumber job seekers at a ratio of 1.23 last year, albeit below the 1.39 in 2014.

The tight labour market and manpower shortage in some industries boosted real median incomes for full-time employed Singaporeans, including employer Central Provident Fund contributions, which rose 7 per cent over the year. This is more than the 1.4 per cent rise in 2014.

But the growth was not matched on the productivity front. Labour productivity last year fell by 0.1 per cent when measured as value added per worker, an improvement from 2014 when it fell 0.5 per cent.

While unemployment remained low, DBS' Mr Seah said it could worsen quickly if the economy dips into a recession and sees broad-based retrenchments.

Already, the figures do not account for workers who are underemployed, he noted. "People could be in jobs but jobs that do not compensate for their skill sets."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 16, 2016, with the headline 'Higher-skilled workers make up bulk of layoffs'. Print Edition | Subscribe