Redundancies rise amid economic slowdown; unemployment remains low: latest MOM stats

Office workers during lunch time outside Raffles Place MRT station, on March 7, 2016.
Office workers during lunch time outside Raffles Place MRT station, on March 7, 2016. ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - More workers lost their jobs last year amid weaker economic conditions, although unemployment remained low.

A total of 15,580 workers were laid off in 2015, the highest since the global financial crisis in 2009 which saw 23,430 workers laid off, said the Manpower Ministry in its official labour market report for 2015. The number of redundancies climbed 20 per cent from 12,930 the year before.

Just over half of the Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who were made redundant from from July to September 2015 were in employment by the end of the year. This measures the re-entry rates within six months of redundancy based on Central Provident Fund (CPF) records, and was down from 55 per cent measured three months earlier and 59 per cent measured at the end of 2014.

Still, the unemployment rate last year for remained unchanged at 2.9 per cent for Singaporeans, with a slight uptick to 2.8 per cent when Permanent Residents are included, up from 2.7 per cent in 2014.

Local employment grew last year but at the slowest pace in over a decade. The number of Singaporeans and Permanent Residents in jobs rose by just 700 over the year, a stark change from 2014, when local employment grew 96,000.

With foreign employment growth slowing as well, this brought the total number of workers here to 3,656,200 as at the end of last year. When not including foreign domestic workers, total employment was 23,300 or 0.7 per cent higher than at the start of the year.

The structural shift to slow local workforce growth coincided with a cyclical slowdown last year, said MOM in a statement.

"Even as local employment growth is expected to slow down in the medium term, the moderation was intensified in 2015 due to cyclical weakness in certain sectors and the significant net decline of casual workers from the labour force," the ministry said.

Export-oriented sectors such as manufacturing and wholesale trade saw slowdowns, along with real estate services amid the lacklustre property market. Employment growth in retail trade also slackened due to the slowdown in the increase of new retail space available and lower sales volumes, excluding motor vehicles.

Job openings continued to outnumber job seekers last year at a ratio of 1.23.

With workers in high demand due to the tight labour market, full-time employed Singaporeans saw their real median income, including employer CPF contributions, rise 7 per cent over the year. This is more than the 1.4 per cent rise in 2014.

But labour productivity fell by 0.1 per cent. This is measured as value-added per worker and is a small improvement from 2014, when it fell 0.5 per cent.

For the year ahead, MOM said it expects redundancies to continue to rise in sectors facing weak external demand and that are undergoing restructuring, while domestic-oriented services sectors are likely to continue to need workers.

"MOM is closely monitoring the current economic and labour market situation, and is strengthening employment support to help displaced locals re-enter employment," it said.