Singapore citizens' employment rate increased over last 10 years

There were 2.33 million residents in the labour force as of June last year, comprising 1.97 million Singaporeans and 360,000 permanent residents. The Ministry of Manpower said in its report that as citizens consistently make up about 85 per cent of t
There were 2.33 million residents in the labour force as of June last year, comprising 1.97 million Singaporeans and 360,000 permanent residents. The Ministry of Manpower said in its report that as citizens consistently make up about 85 per cent of the resident labour force, their trends track closely those of resident data.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Their PMET share up; real median income grew faster than that of the total resident workforce

The employment rate of Singapore citizens has risen over 10 years, along with the share of professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) among working Singaporeans.

Their real median income, which takes into account inflation, has also risen faster than that of the total resident workforce, which includes permanent residents (PRs). Citizen unemployment, meanwhile, has remained low.

New figures on these trends were released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday in an occasional paper on citizens in the labour force.

As citizens consistently make up about 85 per cent of the resident labour force, their trends track closely those of resident data, MOM said in the report based on data from June 2009 to June last year.

There were 2.33 million residents in the labour force as of June last year, comprising 1.97 million Singaporeans and 360,000 PRs.

Employment outcomes for citizens may be slightly lower than those of the wider resident population because people usually have to show good employability to get PR status, said the ministry.

The citizen employment rate rose to 63.6 per cent last year, up from 60 per cent year in 2009, driven by workers aged 65 and older.

Meanwhile, the residents' rate remained within 1.4 to 1.7 points higher, rising to 65.2 per cent last year from 61.6 per cent.

Also, the employment rates for working-age citizens - those between 25 and 64 - climbed to 80.5 per cent from 75.6 per cent.

For residents, the rate was between zero and 0.3 points higher in the 10-year period.

The employment rates of citizens and residents may diverge over time as the population ages, with older cohorts typically having lower employment rates, said MOM. Around 27 per cent of working-age citizens were in the 55 to 64 age group, compared with 10 per cent of working-age PRs.

 
 
 

PMET SHARE IN JOB MARKET

Among employed citizens, the share of PMETs climbed to 55.8 per cent last year, up from 47.4 per cent in 2009. For residents, the corresponding figures were 58.3 per cent and 51.4 per cent.

MOM's report comes after the issue of whether citizens have access to good jobs was widely discussed, with questions raised in Parliament earlier this month.

The ministry last released such an occasional paper in 2011 with data for the full decade to 2010. The next release was planned for next year to take in the full decade to 2020, but it has now been brought forward.

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said in an interview last week that about 83 per cent of the 60,000 new jobs created for the local workforce between 2015 and 2018 went to Singaporeans, and the rest to PRs.

He noted that the Singaporean workforce is made up of a wider group of workers aged 20 to older than 60, while the PRs who come in are pre-selected and those with "strong job opportunities".

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said in a Facebook post yesterday that "there is no sinister reason" as to why data on residents are not broken down into citizens and PRs.

"Internationally, statistical agencies cover the entire population residing in their country without a breakdown by nationality. The aim is comprehensive data coverage, so that analyses and comparison are accurate and meaningful," she said.

Also, Singapore citizens make up a large majority of the resident labour force, and the PR population is relatively small.

"The PR population does not have significant impact on trends and presenting more data sets all the time - resident, citizen, PR - provides little additional information," said Mrs Teo. "Nonetheless, over longer time periods, it is useful to take a closer look at citizen data in a holistic way, which is the purpose of such occasional papers."

She expressed confidence that Singaporeans "will understand this approach to statistical reporting and not fall prey to attempts to sow distrust between the Government and the people through suspicious lines of questioning that see shadows where there are none".

An MOM spokesman said yesterday that the ministry's surveys do not track when Singaporean respondents become citizens.

INCOME GROWTH

Citizens fared slightly better than residents on income growth for full-time workers, with real median income growing yearly, on average, by 3.9 per cent between June 2014 and June last year. These preliminary figures for gross monthly income include employer contributions to the Central Provident Fund.

For residents, the real median income growth was 3.8 per cent.

 
 

The average Singaporean enjoyed steady income growth in the last 10 years, with median monthly income rising to $4,333 last year. For residents, it was $4,563.

Nominated MP and university don Walter Theseira said that while data on the resident labour force allows for better comparisons with most countries, MOM can choose to publish data on other aspects of the labour force "which are of little interest internationally but which may have interest domestically".

"As a matter of national policy, we carefully select PRs in terms of their qualifications and contributions to our economy... We should then expect that PRs on average do better than native-born Singapore citizens economically," he said.

"I think acknowledging the differences clearly, and understanding what they mean for citizens and the economy, would be of value."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore citizens' employment rate increased over last 10 years'. Print Edition | Subscribe