Non-PMETs hit harder by Covid-19 with steeper rise in jobless rate than PMETs: MOM

Industries more severely impacted by Covid-19 have a higher concentration of non-PMETs. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Non-professionals, managers, executives and technicians (non-PMETs) were hit harder than PMETs by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to annual advance estimates for the resident labour force released on Thursday (Dec 3).

Compared with PMETs, non-PMETs saw a steeper increase in unemployment rates and a greater reduction in working hours.

This is mainly because industries more severely impacted by Covid-19 have a higher concentration of non-PMETs, and their jobs are less suitable for remote work, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in its report, which is based on data collected in June.

These industries include construction, retail trade, and food and beverage services.

However, the unemployment rate of 6.4 per cent for non-PMETs this year remained below past recessionary peaks. This was also the case for PMETs, which saw unemployment rate at 3.5 per cent.

During the global financial crisis, the jobless rates for non-PMETs peaked at 6.9 per cent in 2009, and 3.9 per cent for PMETs.

On Thursday, MOM said the increase in overall unemployment rates for both PMETs and non-PMETs were driven by shorter-term unemployment.

Meanwhile, the increase in long-term unemployment rates - where persons were out of work for more than 25 weeks - for both groups was smaller.

PMETs in their 40s experienced a larger increase in long-term unemployment rate compared with other age groups.

Among non-PMETs, long-term unemployment rose for residents below 30 and in their 40s, but held steady for residents aged 50 and older.

Covid-19 also led to reduced working hours for more non-PMETs (14 per cent) than for PMETs (5.7 per cent).

Industries that saw the highest proportion of workers having their working hours reduced included accommodation (25.8 per cent), food and beverage services (21.1 per cent) and other community, social and personal services (15.1 per cent).

Lower-wage workers also saw a steeper decline in monthly income, from $2,457 last June to $2,340 in June this year.

"This is quite consistent to the trend that you see in many other countries, because the nature of the work that was more impacted by Covid-19 did have a larger share of their workforce earning less," said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo during a visit to security agency Soverus on Thursday.

However, when factoring in government assistance for low-wage workers, such as the Workfare Income Supplement and Workfare Special Payment, median income for the 20th percentile only fell to $2,449 in June this year - similar to that of last year.

Mrs Teo said MOM will be working with other agencies to ensure that economic activities will continue to expand to make jobs available to jobseekers.

But these jobs will likely require displaced workers to pick up new skills, she added.

Mrs Teo said MOM will continuously refine and enhance existing schemes such as the SGUnited traineeship programmes and professional conversion programmes for mid-career individuals, to help jobseekers pick up the skills needed.

For example, Soverus tapped on the Security Productivity Initiative to redesign and enhance the job scope of its security officers, including Mr Allan Chan, 57, a security supervisor.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo during a visit to security agency Soverus on Dec 3, 2020. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Mr Chan, who supervises two security officers at a church in Paya Lebar, underwent training to pick up customer service skills last year.

Mrs Teo added that MOM and its tripartite partners are also studying how to increase wages of low-income workers, and the workgroup will release their recommendations "in the near future".

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