SINGAPORE, Dec 2 – The employment rate for Singapore residents has risen above pre-pandemic levels, the Ministry of Manpower said on Wednesday, Dec 1, attributing it to the impact of support measures government programs such as the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package, the Job Support Program and the Job Growth Incentive to boost employment.
This was one of the key findings from an early release of the ministry’s Singapore Labor Force Report 2021.
The employment rate for residents aged 15 and over increased significantly, from 64.5% in June last year to 67.2% in June this year. It was also higher than in June 2019 (65.2%).
The report also noted that while the vast majority of resident employees – citizens and permanent residents – were permanent employees (88%), an increase in demand for temporary labor for Covid-19-related activities and l Economic uncertainty led to a new record high in the share of fixed-term contracts.
This figure stood at 8.4% in June this year, compared to 7.3% last June.
“Currently, temporary work is largely driven by demand from Covid-19 operations. As the Covid-19 situation stabilizes, the demand for labor from these activities will start to decline, but we do not expect demand will not disappear completely,” the report said.
“Fixed-term contracts of one year or less were already on the rise in the pre-Covid years. Therefore, while the proportion is unlikely to remain at this high level, it could eventually settle above pre-Covid norms.
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, who spoke to the media after a visit to Raffles Hotel Singapore, said: “While we see that improvements are being made rapidly, we must bear in mind that we are not fully back to pre-Covid levels, and we are not completely off the hook, especially when there is so much news about world governments, healthcare systems struggling with the new variant of Omicron.
Here are some of the report’s other key findings.
1. Resident unemployment rates improved but remained above pre-pandemic rates
The unemployment rate for liberal professions, managers, executives and technicians (PMET) fell from 3.5% in June 2020 to 3.4% in June 2021
The unemployment rate for non-PMETs fell from 6.4% in 2020 to 5.1% in 2021
Unemployment rates improved across most age groups
Exceptions were PMETs and non-PMETs in their 40s, with some leaving their last job because they were dissatisfied with certain aspects of the job, such as demanding work and lack of interest.
Resident long-term unemployment rates held steady at 0.8% for PMETs and 0.9% for non-PMETs after rising last year.
2. Resident underemployment rates improved but remained above pre-pandemic rates
These are defined as residents aged 15 and over who normally work less than 35 hours per week but are willing to work more
The percentage of these workers of all employed workers fell from 4.1% in June 2020 to 3.5% in June 2021, although it remains above pre-pandemic rates
Most groups have seen improvements, including less-educated and older workers who were hit the hardest last year
Affected by the suspension of catering services and in-person classes or enrichment classes during the heightened alert period, rates of time-related underemployment were highest in the food and beverage sectors , services and education in June 2021, and their rates were also higher than pre-pandemic levels
3. The nominal median income of full-time employed residents also exceeded pre-pandemic levels
Rose 3.2% in Jun 2021 to S$4,680 from S$4,534 in Jun 2020
After controlling for inflation, real median income growth was weaker but remained positive at 1.1%, more than offsetting the 0.4% decline in 2020
The 20th percentile income of full-time employed residents increased 4.6% in real terms in 2021 and is back to around pre-pandemic levels. 20th percentile income refers to the level of income that separates the bottom 20% from the rest
Compared over a five-year period between 2016 and 2021, real income growth for middle- and low-income people has remained positive
4. Working from home due to Covid-19 remained widespread
The proportion of employed residents who worked from home remained high at 46% in June 2021
This is less than the 49% of the previous year, as more workplaces allowed more workers on site
Industries where there was a greater need for on-site workers, those that used specialized equipment or required face-to-face interactions saw more workers return to their workplaces
5. Sharp decrease in the number of residents outside the labor force
With the labor force participation rate increasing significantly, there has been a corresponding drop in the number of residents outside the labor force, from 1,100,800 in 2020 to 1,004,400 in 2021.
This reflects a sharp drop in the number of people who have recently left their job and who were outside the labor force, such as those who left their last job in the past six months.
There were also fewer residents outside the labor force with no work experience, as more young people entered the labor force and the number of people in the middle age groups tended to gradually decline amid the increase in women’s participation in the labor force.
Asked if the report tracked the growth of gig or self-employed workers’ earnings over the years and also if there were any updates on efforts to better protect these workers, Tan said that the department did not have statistics on these workers.
“Let me check with the team on the other surveys we’ve done to see if there are any proxies we could use to at least give some form of indicator, and I think that’s also a good suggestion for future studies. We’ll try to incorporate (this in) follow-up, in terms of numbers as well,” he said.
Tan said a task force has been formed to determine how to protect the rights of freelancers, especially platform and gig workers.
“There are a few initiatives we are considering. One is from a natural retirement adequacy standpoint and also from a certain form of insurance standpoint, if they were to be involved in accidents, and to also meet the care needs of health.
“And the third thing is, of course, representation – some form of union representation to speak on their behalf. So it’s part of a larger study. I think the work is well advanced,” he said.
He added that he is “cautiously optimistic” that he will be able to show progress early next year.
Tan, with the variant of the Omicron coronavirus lurking, was also asked how the forecast should change.
“Today is still very early, so I don’t think we are in a position to comment. I think, suffice it to say, earlier (Health) Minister Ong Ye Kung said occupy is really like snakes and ladders.
“We remain stoic in terms of being responsive in terms of the type of support needed and being very specific and also very focused on the specific areas where support is most needed. At this precise moment, this is the most nuanced strategy moving forward. ” – TODAY