Budget debate

Do more to measure underemployment: Sylvia Lim

Unemployment figures paint a worrying picture, but they do not show the plight of Singaporean workers who cannot find full-time work, Workers' Party chairman Sylvia Lim said in Parliament yesterday .

Urging the Government to do more to measure underemployment, the Aljunied GRC MP noted that more than 58,000 Singaporeans were out of work last December. But the figure does not include people who give up the job search or are in training, she added.

Some have had to lower their expectations and find jobs in other industries for a reduced pay. They face stresses at a stage of life when they have significant family commitments, she said.

While she acknowledged these statistical definitions are universally used, she wants headline numbers on time-based underemployment and the number of workers who give up their job search to be published, along with overall unemployment figures.

The two extra measures are already being collated by the Government, she said, adding that their inclusion in the headline figures would give people a better understanding of the underemployment situation. Further, she wants the Government, in time, to use a substantive measure of underemployment - for example, taking into account employment income compared to median income for that worker's academic qualification and age, or previous income.

"This will give some idea of the extent to which people are downgrading expectations and taking up jobs that are below reasonable labour market expectations," she said.

Labour MP Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC) later thanked her for reiterating a call he had made in Parliament for the past few years, urging the Government to relook underemployment and unemployment insurance.

Ms Lim also suggested that the Government look into the feasibility of introducing redundancy insurance. Resident workers and their employers could contribute towards a fund, which would give payouts for six months when workers lose their jobs.

The payouts could be a proportion, say 40 per cent, of their last-drawn salary, subject to a cap which could be based on the median wage.

They then do not have to rely on public monies and also need not grab at the first job that comes along, "enabling a better employee-to-job fit and sustainability", Ms Lim said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 05, 2016, with the headline Do more to measure underemployment: Sylvia Lim. Subscribe