Singapore GE2020: MOM refutes PSP figure of 100,000 unemployed local PMETs in TV debate

As of June 2019, the Ministry of Manpower said there were 39,000 local unemployed PMETs. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - It is incorrect to say that Singapore has 100,000 local professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) who are out of a job, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Thursday (July 2), refuting a figure cited by the Progress Singapore Party during a televised live debate on Wednesday.

As of June last year, there were 39,000 local unemployed PMETs, said the ministry in a statement, less than half of the 100,000 figure quoted by Mr Francis Yuen of the PSP during the programme, Singapore Votes 2020 - The Political Debate, on Channel 5.

MOM said it got its 39,000 figure from the Report on Labour Force in Singapore 2019 released on Jan 30 this year. This year's figures will be released in the report early next year as the survey is conducted annually, it said.

But Mr Yuen, 70, who is leading PSP's four-man team in Chua Chu Kang GRC against PAP rivals led by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, said the MOM's figures are outdated.

In response to The Straits Times' queries, he said: "The June 2019 figures do not include retrenchments in the third and fourth quarter last year and the expected numbers in 2020.

"MOM in the same report also said that 70 per cent of retrenchments in 2019 are (that of) PMETs. Given job losses in 2020 are expected to be 100,000 to to 200,000, and estimating that 70 per cent of these will be (that of) PMETs, we estimate 100,000 unemployed PMETs," said Mr Yuen, who is formerly Hong Leong Asia chief executive and a former Republic of Singapore Air Force colonel.

He added that in citing the 100,000 figure, the party also took into consideration the "large proportion who will not find jobs" among the more than 30,000 new graduates entering the job market this year, as well as PMETs displaced into the gig economy that are unaccounted for in unemployment figures.

During the debate, answering the first question posed by the debate moderator on how the PSP will deal with rising unemployment, Mr Yuen said: "We have a lot of foreign PMETs working here. I think there are about 400,000 of them, and yet we have about more than 100,000 of these PMETs who are out of a job.

"We believe that we need foreign PMETs to complement but we need to believe that there is opportunity for us to slow it down."

He later cited the figure again in response to Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan's question: "What else do you want (the People's Action Party) to do... as far as PMETs are concerned?"

Dr Balakrishnan, representing the PAP, said the number of local PMETs is increasing by 3 per cent a year, higher than the overall local workforce's growth rate, and that there are seven locals holding a PMET job for every foreign employment pass holder.

"And are you aware that in the first five months of this year, 60,000 foreigners have lost jobs?" he added.

Mr Yuen replied: "I mean the fact still remains that you have amongst us over 400,000 foreign PMETs working here. And the fact also remains that we have a number of our own PMETs that are out of job to the tune of 100,000.

"So logic will tell us that our own PMETs certainly could fill up some of the jobs that the current PMETs could do."

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