Budget debate: Resident employment rebounds to above pre-Covid-19 level, says Josephine Teo

The overall unemployment rate fell to 3.2 per cent in January, down from 3.3 per cent in December last year.
The overall unemployment rate fell to 3.2 per cent in January, down from 3.3 per cent in December last year.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Unemployment rates continued to drop in January as the economy recovers, and resident employment has rebounded to slightly above pre-pandemic levels, said Manpower Minister Josephine Teo on Wednesday (March 3).

A report by the Ministry of Manpower on the same day revealed that the overall unemployment rate fell to 3.2 per cent in January, down from 3.3 per cent in December last year.

Resident unemployment, which refers to Singapore citizens and permanent residents, declined to 4.3 per cent, from 4.4 per cent in the preceding month.

Meanwhile, the citizen unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.5 per cent.

Some 101,900 residents were unemployed in January this year, including 89,300 citizens.

Mrs Teo said in Parliament on Wednesday: "On the jobs front, we have started 2021 on firmer footing.

"Resident employment has rebounded to slightly above pre-Covid levels."

She noted: "Throughout the crisis, our workforce has shown remarkable resilience. Employers, too, heeded the call to retain their Singaporean core."

Mrs Teo pointed to initiatives like the Jobs Support Scheme and the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package that helped Singaporeans stay employed, together with tripartite efforts coordinated by the National Jobs Council.

At the same time, she noted that the ministry tightened controls on foreign manpower to account for the slack in the labour market, with lower quotas in the services sector and two hikes in the salary hurdles for Employment Passes.

Since September last year, the Jobs Growth Incentive has also helped to expand local hiring.

But there is still more work to be done, despite the promising figures.

She said: "Unemployment and long-term unemployment rates are still elevated.

"Even for those employed, some are in short-term or transitional positions."

She added that others may feel that their skills and experience have not been put to best use and that while this is expected during a downturn, it should not be a permanent state of affairs.