1,270 layoffs reported from tech firms in Singapore from July to November

There have been a series of layoffs from tech companies in Singapore, such as social media giant Meta and conglomerate GoTo, due to global economic headwinds and flagging investor confidence in the sector. PHOTO: UNSPLASH

SINGAPORE – Technology firms here reported 1,270 layoffs of resident workers from July to mid-November, said Manpower Minister Tan See Leng on Monday.

This is almost five times the 260 resident workers – comprising Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs) – laid off in the first half of 2022.

Dr Tan provided the figures in response to questions filed by nine MPs on retrenchment figures in the sector, the profile of affected workers and the support provided to them. There have been a series of layoffs from tech companies in Singapore, such as social media giant Meta and conglomerate GoTo, due to global economic headwinds and flagging investor confidence in the sector.

Of the 1,270 retrenched workers, Dr Tan said around eight in 10 worked in non-tech roles such as sales and marketing, while seven in 10 were aged 35 and below, which is consistent with the low median age of employed residents in the information and communications sector.

The number retrenched in less than five months dwarfs the annual average of 790 resident workers retrenched from June 2017 to June 2022, according to Ministry of Manpower (MOM) figures.

But Dr Tan said retrenchment figures in the tech sector over the last five years remain relatively low, compared with the average annual employment growth of 8,100 resident workers over the same period. He also noted that tech companies hired 7,000 residents in the first half of 2022.

He added that in the second quarter of 2022, a higher proportion of tech and non-tech resident workers in the sector found new jobs within six months of getting retrenched than in the job market overall, but did not specify the sectors they got hired in.

Job vacancies in the information and communications sector rose from 11,100 in December 2021 to 12,100 in June, more than triple the 3,800 vacancies available in June 2020, he said, in response to a question from Nominated MP Shahira Abdullah on whether demand for tech talent has fallen. Other sectors like financial services, including local banks, are hiring for tech roles too, he added.

Dr Tan said: “Taken together, this reflects that there is strong supportive capacity across the larger economy and opportunities for affected workers to fill in-demand roles.”

In response to questions from Dr Shahira, Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC) and Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) about the support provided to affected workers, Dr Tan said half of the tech firms that retrenched workers between July and mid-November have provided career transition services for them.

The Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation, which comprises representatives from Workforce Singapore and the Employment and Employability Institute, is also reaching out to all affected local employees with information kits on job fairs, career advice and coaching services, he added.

Seven in 10 of those in tech who sought help from the task force in 2021 found a new job within six months, said Dr Tan.

In response to Ms Pereira, Dr Tan said those retrenched from tech roles in tech firms generally have been able to find a new job much faster than peers retrenched from non-tech roles. This has prompted the task force to focus on helping non-tech workers to upgrade their skills and improve their chances of finding a new job.

Responding to Ms Mariam Jaafar (Sembawang GRC), who asked for a breakdown of the number of affected Singaporeans compared with foreigners, Dr Tan said MOM follows standards set by the International Labour Organisation, which does not provide breakdowns by nationality.

But Singaporeans make up about 85 per cent of the resident labour force and the population of PRs has remained stable, he noted. “This means that the resident data mirrors citizen data and, if we were to break it down, actually provides little additional information,” said Dr Tan.

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