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Statement on Labour Market Developments

Introduction

  1. Consistent with findings reported in the Labour Market Advance Release 2016 on 26 January 2017, the resident unemployment rate and long-term unemployment rate remained low but rose slightly as redundancies increased and job vacancies declined. Total employment grew at a slower rate, reflecting cyclical weakness in parts of the economy, a structural slowdown in local labour force growth, and tightened foreign worker policy. Against this backdrop, MOM has further enhanced “Adapt and Grow”1 programmes to help jobseekers seize new job opportunities and maximise their lifelong re-employability as the economy restructures.

    Review of 2016

    Employment

    Unemployment rate rose for residents, highest since 2010
  2. The annual average resident unemployment rate rose slightly from 2.8% in 2015 to 3.0% in 2016, the highest since 2010.2 The increase was broad-based across most age and education groups, with larger increases among those aged 30 to 39 and 50 & over, as well as those with secondary and degree qualifications. The annual average resident long-term unemployment rate3, though still low, rose from 0.6% in 2015 to 0.8% in 2016, and was higher among those aged 50 & over, and among degree holders.

    Total employment growth continued to moderate in 2016
  3. Total employment (excluding Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW)) grew by 8,600 in 2016, lower than in 2015 (23,300), and significantly lower than in the earlier part of the decade (annual average of 120,000 between 2010 to 2014).

    Local employment growth rebounded from flat growth in 2015
  4. Local employment grew by 11,200 in 2016, rebounding from flat growth in 2015 (700) (Figure 1). Growth in local employment remained lower than in the earlier part of the decade, reflecting both a structural trend due to demographics4 as well as cyclical weakness in parts of the economy. Growth occurred mainly in the Professional Services, Financial & Insurance Services, and Community, Social & Personal Services sectors, with these sectors having relatively higher shares of Professional, Manager, Executive & Technician (PMET) occupations.

    Figure 1: Local Employment Change - Overall Economy

    Foreign employment contracted after moderation in growth since 2011
  5. Foreign employment (excluding FDW) contracted by 2,500 in 2016, continuing a downtrend since 2011 (Figure 2). The contraction was mainly due to the decrease in Work Permit Holders (-7,900) in the Manufacturing, Marine and Construction sectors. This is attributed to the subdued global economic conditions and a fall in private sector construction demand. At the same time, growth of S Pass and Employment Pass (EP) Holders moderated to 1,100 (from 8,600 in 2015) and 4,300 (from 9,000 in 2015) respectively.

    Figure 2: Foreign (excl FDW) Employment Change - Overall Economy

    Redundancies and Job Vacancies5

    Redundancies continued an upward trend since 2010, with a decline in residents’ re-entry rates
  6. Redundancies rose to 19,170 in 2016, due mainly to business restructuring and reorganisation. This continued an upward trend since 2010, but was still lower than the recessionary high in 2009 (23,430). Residents were proportionally less affected, with their share of redundancies (58%) remaining lower than their share of employment (66%).
  7. The increase in redundancies was accompanied by a decline in the annual average6 rate of re-entry among residents made redundant. Slightly less than half of residents (48%) made redundant in 2016 re-entered employment, the lowest since 2010 (53%). In particular, the rate of re-entry was the lowest among those aged 50 & over (40%), degree holders (42%) and PMETs (44%).

    Job vacancies declined after a slight increase in previous quarter
  8. After a slight increase in the previous quarter (September 2016: 50,800), job vacancies declined to 47,600 in December 2016, the lowest since December 2012. Coupled with an increase in unemployed persons, the seasonally-adjusted ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons fell to 0.77, the lowest since September 2009 (0.54).

    Income

    Broad-based real income growth for Singaporeans over the last five years
  9. Median income growth moderated for Singaporeans in 2016 after strong growth in 20157. The nominal median monthly income from work8 (including employer CPF contributions) of full-time employed Singaporeans increased by 0.7% over the year to $3,823 in June 2016, or 1.3% in real terms9.
  10. Real income growth has been broad-based and sustained over the past five years. The real median income10 (including employer CPF contributions) of full-time employed Singaporeans rose by 16% (or 3.1% per annum) from 2011 to 2016. With ongoing support for low-wage workers, income at the 20th percentile of full-time employed Singaporeans rose by a similar rate of 17% (or 3.2% per annum) over the same period.

    Productivity

    Labour productivity grew
  11. Overall labour productivity (as measured by value-added (VA) per actual hour worked) rose by 1.4% in 201611, an improvement from the 1.0% in 2015 (Figure 3). Growth in 2016 was driven by the Manufacturing, Transportation & Storage, Wholesale & Retail Trade, Financial & Insurance and Information & Communications sectors. On the other hand, productivity declined in the Business Services, Construction, Other Services and Accommodation & Food Services sectors.

    Figure 3: Productivity (%) - Overall Economy

    Sectoral Performance and Outlook

    Manufacturing
  12. Employment in the Manufacturing sector fell in 2016 (-15,500), but at a slower pace compared to 2015, with declines in both local and foreign employment. This was largely due to employment decline in the Transport Engineering cluster, as the Marine & Offshore Engineering segment continued to be weighed down by sluggish demand for oil rigs and oilfield equipment amid sustained low oil prices. On the back of healthy growth in VA, Manufacturing productivity rose by 7.9% in 2016, reversing the decline in 2015 (Figure 4a).

    Figure 4a and Figure 4b
  13. Manufacturing Outlook. While the near-term growth outlook for Manufacturing has improved, the hiring outlook for 2017 remains cautious, as performance is likely to be uneven across clusters. In particular, output in the Electronics cluster is expected to continue to expand, supported by the Semiconductor and Machinery & Systems segments. On the other hand, the Transport Engineering cluster is expected to remain a drag on employment growth, as the Marine & Offshore Engineering segment is likely to continue to face headwinds.

    Construction
  14. After slowing growth in recent years, employment in the Construction sector declined in 2016 (-11,500), mainly at the Work Permit Holder level. The employment decline took place amid continued weakness in private sector construction activity. Given weak growth in VA, productivity growth fell to -1.1% in 2016, compared to 4.3% in 2015 (Figure 5a).

    Figure 5a and Figure 5b
  15. Construction Outlook. Construction output in 2017 is expected to moderate further compared to recent years due to slowing construction demand since 2015. The continued slowdown in the private sector construction segment is likely to weigh down on employment in the sector.

    Services
  16. Services accounted for most of the employment growth in 2016. Total employment (excl. FDW) in the Services sector grew by 36,000 in 2016, similar to 2015 (36,500) but significantly lower than in 2014 (111,700). Employment declined in the Wholesale Trade and Accommodation sectors on the back of sluggish global economic conditions. The declines were more than offset by employment gains in the Professional Services, Financial & Insurance Services, and Community, Social & Personal Services sectors.
  17. Productivity in the Services sector was varied in 2016. Productivity declined in the Business Services and Accommodation & Food Services sectors, but increased in the Transportation & Storage, Wholesale & Retail Trade, Financial & Insurance and Information & Communications sectors.

    Figure 6a and Figure 6b
  18. Services Outlook. While uncertainties in the global economic outlook could weigh on employment growth in the outward-oriented services sectors, employment growth in the domestically-oriented services sectors is expected to remain firm. In particular, sectors such as Community, Social & Personal Services, particularly the health and social services segment, should continue to see firm demand for manpower.

    Labour Market Outlook for 2017
  19. In line with the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) forecast of modest GDP growth (1.0 to 3.0%) in 2017, MOM expects labour demand to remain modest as well12. Labour supply will remain tight in the medium term: local workforce growth will remain modest due to underlying demographics, while foreign workforce growth will continue to be moderated. Over the next three to five years, total workforce growth (excluding FDW) is expected to be in the range of 25,000 to 40,000, significantly lower than in previous years up to 2014.
  20. While year-to-year employment and productivity figures may be influenced by cyclical factors affecting demand, businesses should press on with transformation efforts so that they can continue to grow in a structurally manpower-lean environment. With slower local labour force growth and the improving skills and education profile of our workforce, our priority is to maximise the quality of jobs, both in new growth areas as well as through re-designing of existing jobs.

    Conclusion
  21. The labour market weakened in 2016, reflecting subdued conditions in several segments of the economy. The largest impact was felt by older (aged 50 & over) residents, and those with degree qualifications as indicated by the increase in their unemployment and long-term unemployment rates, as well as lower re-entry rates after being made redundant.
  22. Against this backdrop, MOM has further enhanced the “Adapt and Grow” programmes to help jobseekers overcome mismatches and missed matches in the labour market as the economy restructures. These include higher wage and training support for PMETs and Rank-and-File workers to enter new jobs and careers, with greater support focused on those older and unemployed for longer periods. In particular, mature PMETs who have been actively seeking employment for a year or longer, will receive higher wage support for up to 18 months. The “Attach-and-Train” initiative helps address slower hiring in some sectors due to economic uncertainty. The development of an online jobs marketplace and partnerships with private sector employment agencies will also strengthen matching between employers and jobseekers.
  23. Through these efforts, MOM, Workforce Singapore (WSG) and our tripartite partners will help affected workers to seize new job opportunities. Workers are urged to tap on this support to adapt and grow, in order to maximise their lifelong re-employability. At the same time, business must continue to transform and grow, to create quality jobs for Singaporeans.

FOOTNOTE

  1. Adapt and Grow brings together a package of recently enhanced employment support initiatives, including the Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) to support those switching careers, and Career Support Programme (CSP) to help displaced PMETs secure a quality job with employers. More details can be found at http://www.wsg.gov.sg/adapt-and-grow.html.
  2. Unemployment data is from Labour Market 2016, MOM.
  3. Non-seasonally adjusted.
  4. Growth of the local working-age population is slowing, due to smaller cohorts of younger locals entering the workforce, and more “baby boomers” retiring. At the same time, the resident Labour Force Participation Rate is already high compared to many other countries, with limited upside.
  5. Data from the Labour Market 2016, MOM
  6. The annual rates are the simple average of the quarterly rates of re-entry into employment.
  7. In 2015, median income growth was 6.5% in nominal terms, or 7.0% in real terms.
  8. Gross monthly income data are from Labour Market 2016, MOM.
  9. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all items fell by 0.5% in 2016.
  10. Deflated by Consumer Price Index – All Items at 2014 prices.
  11. References to labour productivity in this Statement refer to value-added per actual hour worked. Value-added per worker rose by 1.0% in 2016, reversing the decline of 0.2% in 2015. The stronger growth in value-added per actual hour worked compared to value-added per worker was due to a decline in the number of actual hours worked per worker.
  12. Hiring is expected to remain cautious in the Manufacturing sector, as the Marine & Offshore Engineering segment is likely to continue to face headwinds. While the weaker outlook for the Construction sector will further dampen employment growth, domestically-oriented services sectors such as Community, Social & Personal Services, particularly the Health and Social Services segment, should continue to support employment growth.
Last Updated: 15 March 2017