Unemployment numbers may be higher than thought

In March, Singapore's unemployment rate reached its highest level since December 2009 (3 burning questions on jobs; May 7).

However, the number of people out of work may actually be under-reported.

Unemployment statistics in Singapore are derived from a representative sample of households, and not from records from the Central Provident Fund or Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.

The database of job registrants with career centres operated by the community development councils is also not used as a point of reference.

"Discouraged workers" are another group.

These jobseekers may not be able to find employment over a prolonged period of time, perhaps because they do not possess the requisite skills or experience for a job, or turn down job offers because of low pay or poor prospects.

They are deemed to be not searching for work because they believe their search will not yield results, so they are taken off the unemployed list.

Singapore is also experiencing greater underemployment among degree holders.

There are already many degree holders in jobs that require a lower skill set than they possess, such as engineers selling property or insurance.

Many older university graduates who have become structurally unemployed are now stuck in low-skilled jobs.

It is no longer uncommon to meet cabbies or private-hire drivers who are retrenched professionals, managers and executives. They ply the trade simply because they have no other alternative.

Displaced workers who are given a generous severance package have the luxury of time to look for another job commensurate with their experience and qualifications.

However, most workers are laid off with only their notice period as compensation.

The Government has to do more for this group of unemployed Singaporeans.

Simon Owen Khoo

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2017, with the headline 'Unemployment numbers may be higher than thought'. Print Edition | Subscribe