SINGAPORE (The Straits Times / Asia News Network): The scale of job losses in Singapore during the Covid-19 pandemic was unprecedented, more than in any other crisis, according to a report released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MTI) on Wednesday (November 24).
And while the service sector may have escaped previous crises, this time it was hit the hardest.
By the third quarter of this year, the total number of people employed in Singapore (excluding foreign domestic workers) had fallen by 196,400 in total. Of those, 113,500 jobs were lost during the breaker period in the second quarter of last year.
The pandemic has thus exceeded employment declines from peak to trough of other crises, such as the dot-com crisis which saw employment fall by 79,500, the Asian financial crisis by 42,100 and the global financial crisis. from 13,800.
MTI said in the report: “Unlike previous downturns, the Covid-19 pandemic simultaneously affected Singapore’s economy through five transmission channels, especially in the early stages of the pandemic.”
These five channels included falling international visitor arrivals and air travel which severely affected tourism and aviation sectors such as accommodation and air travel.
In addition, sound management measures at the national level and a decline in domestic consumption have affected consumer-oriented sectors such as retail trade and food and beverage services.
Externally, weak demand and supply chain disruptions also weighed on the performance of outward-looking sectors such as wholesaling and water transport for most of the year. last.
The negative fallout from the slowdown in domestic economic activity then led to lower demand in sectors such as real estate in 2020 and early this year.
Finally, the report noted that workforce disruptions resulting from epidemics in migrant workers’ dormitories, border restrictions and safe management measures at workplaces, weighed heavily on sectors heavily dependent on workers. migrants like construction and navy.
As a result of all these problems, employment contracted the most in food services, plunging 21,100, followed by wholesale trade.
But the impact of the pandemic has been uneven across sectors, as employment continued to increase in the information and communications, finance and insurance, and professional services sectors over the same period. .
This partly reflects the recovery in external demand towards the end of last year and into 2021, according to the report.
He also noted that these sectors were likely to have been less affected by workplace closures during the outage and other times of tightening, as staff were able to work from home.
The report also observed that non-resident workers protected citizens and permanent residents from job losses.
âAlthough resident employment fell in the first half of 2020, it followed an upward trend thereafter and had exceeded pre-Covid-19 levels in the fourth quarter of 2020,â MTI said.
“On the other hand, non-resident employment continued to contract between the second quarter of last year and this year, mainly due to ongoing border restrictions.”
He noted that Singapore’s overall unemployment rate remains relatively low compared to other economies.
Singapore’s overall unemployment rate at the end of September stood at 2.6 percent, lower than 4.8 percent in the United States, 4.6 percent in Britain, 4.5 percent in Hong Kong , 3.4 percent in Germany and 3 percent in South Korea.
“We expect the labor market to continue on its recovery path for the remainder of 2021 and 2022, alongside the economic recovery. Our forward estimates for the third quarter show continued momentum in the labor market,” said Mr. Kenny Tan, Division Director. of the division of manpower planning and policy in the ministry of manpower.
“However … the recovery is uneven across sectors and downside risks remain. We therefore continue to monitor the labor market very closely and continue our efforts under the SGUnited package for the jobs and skills. “
OCBC Chief Economist Selena Ling said: “Job prospects are expected to improve as borders reopen to allow foreign workers to enter. Wages should accelerate to keep pace inflation, especially for sectors in demand. “