Unemployment rate among PMETs falls; incomes rise

Median monthly income of full-time workers goes up, but jobless rate for non-PMETs rises

Resident professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) found themselves in a better position in 2017, with lower unemployment and long-term unemployment rates than 2016, according to a Manpower Ministry report released on Nov 30. PHOTO: ST FILE

The light at the end of the tunnel is shining brighter for professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) this year.

A smaller proportion of them are jobless compared with the figure last year, said the initial report on the annual labour force survey released by the Manpower Ministry yesterday. Demand for non-PMET workers, however, is lower.

But overall, the monthly income of the average worker, after taking into account inflation, has gone up.

The improved situation for resident PMETs is in its early stages.

Their unemployment rate dipped from 3.1 per cent last year to 3 per cent this year, after being on the uptrend since 2012. But it is still higher than in the first half of this decade.

Similarly, the long-term unemployment rate for PMETs, which shows the proportion who are out of work for at least six months, came down to 0.7 per cent this year, after rising to 0.9 per cent last year.

Still, the figures from the mid-year survey of Singaporeans and permanent residents heartened analysts like DBS economist Irvin Seah.

He foresees job prospects for PMETs improving further as export-oriented sectors, such as information technology and financial services, recover.

PMETs, who form 56 per cent of working Singapore residents, were the worst hit in the slowdown of the last few years.

Mr Toby Fowlston, managing director for South-east Asia at recruitment firm Robert Walters, added that e-commerce, insurance and logistics are among the key sectors driving the growing demand for high-skilled workers.

However, non-PMETs faced a harder slog in the past year as the number of non-PMET job vacancies is shrinking, a trend since 2014, said the ministry.

Their unemployment rate rose to 4.5 per cent this year, from 4.2 per cent last year, while the long-term unemployment rate remained unchanged at 0.7 per cent.

The median monthly income for residents in full-time jobs, including employers' contributions to the Central Provident Fund, rose by 4.3 per cent to $4,232 this year.

This was a higher pay rise than the 2.7 per cent growth last year.

Taking into account preliminary inflation figures, the median monthly real income rose by 3.7 per cent this year, up from 3.3 per cent last year.

In a Facebook post, labour MP Patrick Tay called on employers to "continue to raise productivity by embracing technology and innovation and share the gains from productivity with workers to motivate them".

Maybank Kim Eng economist Chua Hak Bin noted that unlike the surprisingly strong wage growth for full-time workers, the median monthly income of part-time workers remained flat.

"If the proportion in freelance and part-time jobs is growing, keeping track of wage trends in this part of the economy will become more important," he said.

Lower-wage workers have seen their gross monthly incomes going up, boosted by schemes like the progressive wage model that sets wage floors for various skill levels.

Preliminary figures show that in the past five years, the real income of full-time workers in the 20th percentile rose by an average of 4.2 per cent a year. This is higher than the average growth of 3.4 per cent a year at the median - the mid-point of a range.

Meanwhile, the ageing population and greater likelihood of young people pursuing further education instead of starting work have lowered slightly the labour force participation rate for residents aged 15 and older, said the ministry. It was 67.7 per cent in June this year, down from 68 per cent a year earlier and a peak of 68.3 per cent in 2015.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2017, with the headline Unemployment rate among PMETs falls; incomes rise. Subscribe