Youth unemployment in 2022 lowest in 24 years as fewer schooling youth look for jobs: MOM

Last year’s low unemployment could reflect the abundance of part-time or temporary jobs in sectors with low barriers of entry. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE – Youth unemployment plunged to a 24-year low in 2022 thanks in part to fewer schooling youth looking for a job while businesses regain their footing after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The jobless rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 15 to 24 came in at just 5.9 per cent, down from 7.3 per cent in 2021 and the lowest point since the 4.3 per cent recorded in 1997.

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Wednesday that last year’s low unemployment could reflect an ease in the number of schooling youth looking for a part-time or temporary job in sectors with low barriers of entry, such as retail and food and beverage.

People who are still studying or in training and not looking for a job are not counted into the youth labour force.

The ministry’s full-year labour market report for 2022 also found that about 40 per cent of youth employees were in temporary posts or contract jobs, comprising mostly students working on the side.

It noted that 27 per cent of all young people in jobs were also in school or on vacation from classes.

Full-timers formed around 73 per cent of all employed resident youth in June 2022, the report said, adding: “When youths gained employment, they were likely to be in full-time positions. This share did not change significantly and was comparable to pre-pandemic levels in 2018 and 2019.”

The different needs of young people in the job market tend to push their unemployment rate higher than in other age groups.

On one hand, there are fresh graduates entering the labour market as Singapore transitions out of the pandemic, while other young people explore different options to find a suitable job. Yet others frequently move between temporary or part-time jobs while studying.

This is in line with what other countries have experienced, MOM added.

Nonetheless, 2022’s 5.9 per cent unemployment rate was much lower than in previous downturns, such as the 8.8 per cent seen during the global financial crisis in 2009, it said.

Singapore also fared well last year compared with other developed nations such as the United States, which notched a youth jobless rate of nearly 10 per cent, and Finland, where the rate exceeded 16 per cent, in 2021, said the ministry.

“Youth unemployment is mostly transitional and short-term,” it added.

Long-term unemployed youth, which refers to those unemployed for at least 25 weeks, made up 0.5 per cent of the youth labour force in 2022. This was lower than in the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome crisis, the 2009 global financial crisis and in 2019 before the pandemic.

Singapore’s 2022 rate also compares favourably with 2021 figures from other developed economies such as France, Hong Kong and Britain, which posted rates between 3.9 per cent to 4.9 per cent, the ministry noted.

The report also examined the proportion of the youth population who are not in employment, education or training (Neet). The figure provides a useful measure to understand the difficulty of finding a job for young people, as well as their likelihood of being “economically idle”, the ministry said.

Singapore’s rate of 4 per cent in 2022 shows that very few young people are not engaged in some form of employment or training, far fewer than that experienced by other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries in 2021.

It is also a significant decline from the 5.3 per cent measured at the height of the pandemic in 2020.

The ministry said the low prevalence of Neet youth is testament to the quality of Singapore’s education system, and suggests that “economic idleness’” was less of an issue here.

“Taken together with Singapore’s good international standing in terms of low unemployment and long-term unemployment rates, the favourable labour market outcomes of our youths attest to our quality education and training system.”

This article has been edited for clarity.

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