Foreigners made up 9 in 10 of Singapore's total employment decline in Jan-Sept

Non-resident employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, continued to slide in the third quarter. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Foreigners accounted for almost nine in 10 of Singapore's total employment contraction in the first three quarters of this year, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM)'s labour market report out on Thursday (Dec 17).

This was due to a strong rebound in the employment of residents, namely Singaporeans and permanent residents, said the MOM. Its employment figures do not include foreign domestic workers.

The MOM said other indicators also point to a gradual pickup in the labour market, although the number of retrenched workers rose in the third quarter compared with the preceding three months.

From January to September this year, the total number of people working, excluding foreign domestic workers, fell by 158,700.

Non-residents made up 139,100 of this figure, while resident employment declined by a significantly slimmer margin of 19,600.

The MOM said the rebound in resident employment in the third quarter offset most of the earlier declines for this segment of workers.

Resident employment rose by 43,200 to 2.34 million in September, only 0.4 per cent lower than the same month last year.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said: "The strong support measures for local employment played a key part in stabilising the job market and employment situation."

These include the Jobs Support Scheme and guidelines provided by the National Wages Council, which went towards preserving a strong Singaporean core across all sectors, she said.

Non-resident employment, excluding foreign domestic workers, continued to slide in the third quarter. The 72,300 drop was sharper than in the first two quarters of the year.

The non-resident employment declines were seen most strongly in construction, manufacturing, transportation and storage, and administrative and support services.

But the arts, entertainment and recreation sector saw resident employment declines as well.

On the other hand, the public administration and education, health and social services, and information and communications sectors saw increases in resident employment.

There was also a rebound in food and beverage services, reversing two straight quarters of decline.

Other indicators also point to labour market improvement, with seasonally adjusted unemployment rates still rising in September to 3.6 per cent, but at a slower pace than before, the MOM said.

"Residents in their 40s and 50s, and residents with secondary and below education saw relatively larger increases in their unemployment rates compared to other age and education groups," the report noted.

More retrenchments

The number of retrenchments rose to 9,120 to in the third quarter from 8,130 in the second quarter.

"This was due to higher retrenchments in arts, entertainment and recreation, and air transport-related industries," the MOM said.

However, retrenchments declined in other sectors such as financial services, wholesale trade and food and beverage services.

Among resident employees, the incidence of retrenchments among professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) rose, from 2.7 to 3.7 laid off per 1,000 PMET employees.

The incidence for non-PMETs held steady over the quarter, at 4.3 retrenched per 1,000 non-PMET employees.

But Ms Teo cautioned: "We are mindful that moving forward, we will still see retrenchments and people making transitions as transformation efforts continue. The challenge for us now is looking forward into the future and identifying priorities for all agencies to work on together."

Permanent Secretary for Manpower Aubeck Kam said: "Looking ahead, uncertainties in the economic environment and weak demand conditions will continue to weigh on the recovery of the labour market.

"Covid-19 has also accelerated the pace of business transformation and we have to prepare that unlike cyclical downturns, some jobs may not return. As such, labour market recovery may continue well beyond the immediate rebound but may remain protracted."

"For employers, there is a strong need to focus on building the local workforce," said Ms Teo, noting that this will also mean the ability to create new and better jobs as firms transform.

She added: "We want job seekers to have greater awareness of where the opportunities are, and we want to give them strong support to transit into new roles and industries."

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.