Unemployment rates in Singapore edged up last year amid economic challenges, in what Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said was a “concern” but not “alarming”. According to preliminary numbers released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in its Labour Market Report today, Singapore’s annual average overall unemployment rate rose to 2.3 per cent last year from 2.1 per cent in 2018, holding steady in the last three months of the year after trending upwards in the previous quarters. Unemployment for residents increased to 3.2 per cent last year from 2.9 per cent in 2018, while that for Singaporeans stood at 3.3 per cent, up from 3 per cent previously.
NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said that structural challenges such as skills and jobs mismatches continue to be the main cause of unemployment in Singapore. He said that he is “eagerly looking forward” to greater support and funding for Singaporeans in the upcoming Budget, particularly in a challenging climate. “With the current and impending challenges such as our demographic/labour force profile, global issues such as the US-China trade war, Brexit and increasing protectionism, technological disruption, the Wuhan virus etc, (I) am eagerly looking forward to greater support, funding and focus in the areas of jobs and skills for Singaporeans,” said Mr Tay. “The support should come in various forms and ways targeted at both workers (especially mature workers and PMEs) and employers (SMEs included) so that we can be best poised to confront, overcome and ride the wave of change and challenges,” he added.
EMPLOYMENT CONTINUED TO RISE IN CHALLENGING YEAR
Total employment continued to grow last year despite economic headwinds during the course of the year and the uncertainties that remain ahead, noted MOM in its report. Total employment (excluding foreign domestic workers) grew by 16,600 in the October to December quarter, lower than the third quarter of last year (21,700) but higher than a year prior (14,700). This took 2019’s total employment growth to 55,200, said MOM.
Local employment rose by 26,500 last year, similar to the 27,400 recorded in 2018. Expansion was seen in services industries, but local employment contracted in industries such as manufacturing and wholesale trade, which were affected by the “softer economic conditions”. “Similar to the past two decades, local employment grew in tandem with total employment,” said the ministry.
Meanwhile, Mrs Teo said the Wuhan coronavirus will cause current economic uncertainties to escalate, but Singapore’s economy is prepared to weather the impending financial impact. Mrs Teo said that there were already headwinds going into 2020 due to rising global conflict and trade tensions that had not been fully resolved. But with growing alarm worldwide over the spread of the Wuhan virus, economic uncertainty has heightened and “investment decisions are bound to be reexamined”. As it stands, the economic impact of the Wuhan virus will be limited. Yet, while no one knows how long this health crisis will last, it is unlikely that the situation will persist, Mrs Teo said.