Singapore workers have it easier than they might think

Office workers head for lunch at the central business district (CBD) in Singapore on Jan 6, 2017.
Office workers head for lunch at the central business district (CBD) in Singapore on Jan 6, 2017.PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Job cuts in Singapore may be at the highest since 2009, but official data shows workers still have it easier than most.

As local politicians seek to appease the population, the most recent figures show Singapore remains one of the easiest countries in the world to find work. The median period of unemployment for job-seekers last year was eight weeks, which is less than half that of Australia's and compares well with other developed economies.

Even for older workers, the picture is far from bleak. While such employees face the highest risk of losing their jobs in Singapore, as with most other countries, 98 per cent of those who reached the retirement age of 62 last year were offered re-employment, local media cited Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say as saying earlier this month.

Singapore's jobs market remains tight partly due to recent curbs on immigration and despite slowing economic growth.

Indeed, there's a bigger concern than lack of work, according to Krystal Tan, an economist with Capital Economics. It's skill mismatches that are the problem as some workers lose long-term manufacturing jobs that are slowly moving away from the small and costly city-state.

"People often don't have the kind of skills the job market demands, so the government is focusing on that now," said Tan.

There is another worry: the unemployment rate for Singapore citizens and permanent residents may climb above 3 per cent for the first time since 2010 in fourth-quarter data out Jan 26. The rate for all residents is currently just 2.1 per cent.

Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said in November the government hopes there won't be any deterioration in unemployment this year. His optimism will be tested this week.