Parliament: Fewer PMETs retrenched last year even as their share of lay-offs increase

Last year, about 5,400 local PMETs were retrenched, the lowest since 2014, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo in Parliament on Monday (April 1). ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Although the share of retrenchments going to local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) has been rising, the number laid off last year was the lowest in four years.

Last year, about 5,400 local PMETs were retrenched, the lowest since 2014, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Monday (April 1). Locals refer to Singaporeans and permanent residents.

The long-term unemployment rate for local PMETs, an indicator of structural unemployment, remained low at 0.8 per cent, Mrs Teo said in Parliament.

Also, there are now about 31,500 vacancies for PMETs, a higher level than in the past few years, she added.

And last year, 34,000 more local PMETs were employed.

"Nonetheless, there are PMET segments we are monitoring closely, such as mature PMET jobseekers as well as those who are long-term unemployed. Such groups receive more training or wage support under Adapt and Grow programmes," said Mrs Teo, replying to Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh and Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC).

The ministry's latest labour market report shows PMETs made up about three in four, or 76 per cent, of the locals retrenched last year, the highest in at least a decade.

This is because the industries shedding workers tend to be dominated by these workers, the ministry said in its report.

Mrs Teo said nearly two-thirds of the PMET lay-offs last year were in sectors undergoing restructuring, namely wholesale trade, financial and insurance services, information and communications, and professional services.

Retrenchment benefits practices appear to be improving.

About nine in 10 companies laying off workers paid retrenchment benefits in 2017, slightly higher than the previous year, Mrs Teo said.

Among them, more than seven in 10 paid workers at least two weeks of salary for each year of employment, up from around six in 10 in 2016.

Companies need to inform the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation when they lay off workers, if they have at least 10 workers and are retrenching five or more employees in any six-month period.

The task force tries to help the affected workers find new jobs.

Under the Adapt and Grow initiative to help workers access good jobs, about 17,000 PMETs were placed last year, nearly double that in 2016, Mrs Teo added. This is about 56 per cent of all placements through the initiative, similar to the share of PMETs in the workforce.

About 5,000 of these workers went through professional conversion programmes to retrain for careers in new roles.

Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) also asked how many retrenchments were from multinational companies.

Mrs Teo said her ministry does not track whether the retrenchments are from foreign or local companies, but it does look at the size of the company.

Employers with more than 200 employees are typically responsible for about 56 per cent of PMET retrenchments in a year, while they employ about 66 per cent of PMETs, she said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.