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Singapore Workforce, 2007

Record Employment, Higher Wages & Fewer Low-Wage Workers

The booming economy has enabled a record proportion of the resident population to secure employment, with notable gains achieved by women and older persons. The continued tightening of the labour market this year has also led to significant gains in income and a reduction in the number and share of low wage workers. Following rapid gains in the past two years and a record employment rate among residents this year, the growth in resident labour force eased in 2007, due to a smaller pool of remaining residents to bring into work. These are the key findings from the “Singapore Workforce, 2007” report by the Ministry of Manpower's Research and Statistics Department on the results of the comprehensive Labour Force Survey conducted in mid 2007.

2.   The main findings of “Singapore Workforce, 2007” are:
  • The growth in resident labour force over the year eased to 2.0% in 2007, which is close to the trend growth since 1991. This followed rapid gains averaging 4.2% p.a. in the preceding two years when more people had entered the labour force, encouraged by the economic upturn. As at June 2007, there were 1,918,100 residents in the labour force comprising 1,100,100 males and 818,100 females.
  • Amid the abundant job opportunities this year, the employment rate improved to a new high, mainly driven by gains among women and older residents. In June 2007, 62.6% of the resident population aged 15 & over were employed, the highest since the start of the data series in 1991. Excluding the extreme age bands, the employment rate for those aged 25 to 64 edged up to a new record of 76.5% from 75.5% a year ago. Supported by efforts to improve employability of older workers, the employment rate of older residents aged 55 to 64 rose by 2.5%-points over the year to 56.2% in June 2007.
  • Most of the new jobs taken up by residents were in occupations paying more than the median income. Nine out of ten jobs gained by residents from 1997 to 2007 went to Professionals, Managers, Executives and Technicians (PMET), mostly in the services sector. Over the past three years, the gains were more spread out across the occupational groups, with more residents employed in sales & services jobs than before. Nevertheless, the majority (71%) of the jobs created for residents from 2004 to 2007 still went to PMETs. Consequently, PMETs now form 49% of the resident workforce, up from 40% a decade ago, while the share of production & related workers correspondingly declined from 31% to 26% and clerical, sales & service workers from 29% to 25%.
  • Amid the tight labour market, the median monthly income1 for full-time employed residents rose over the year by 7.7% to $2,330 in June 2007, compared to gains of 1.6% p.a. from 2004 to 2006 and 1.2% p.a. from 1998 to 2004. Nevertheless, it is still lower than the gains averaging 9.5% p.a. during 1996 to 1998. After adjusting for inflation, the median income grew over the year by 6.3%P in 2007.
  • As incomes rose, the number of low-wage workers in full-time employment with monthly income at or below $1,200 dropped by 6.6% from 363,700 in 2006 to 339,500 in 2007. They form 20% of the full time-employed residents in 2007, after remaining constant at 22% from 2003 to 2006.
  • Reflecting a growing trend towards greater flexibility in working arrangements, the pool of resident employees engaged on a term contract2 basis expanded by 6.8% over the year to 183,700, with those on short term contracts of less than a year growing by as much as 14%. Against the larger base, the pool of employees on permanent appointment grew by only 2.0%. Nevertheless, the bulk (88%) of employees was still on permanent appointments, with contract employees forming the remaining 12%. Greater labour market flexibility was also reflected in the growing number of part-timers which more than doubled over the decade from 51,200 to 114,700, increasing their share of employment from 3.4% in 1997 to 6.2% in 2007, about the same as a year ago (6.3%).
  • Despite continuing improvement in the education profile of the workforce, there remain a sizeable pool of 531,300 residents without secondary qualifications, forming 28% of the resident labour force (down from 637,200 (46%) in 1991). The workforce is also rapidly aging with slightly over half (53%) of the economically active residents aged 40 years or older, including 25% aged at least 50 years, up from 33% and 13% respectively in 1991. While the strong labour market performance in 2007 has lifted prospects even for the older and less educated, these workers nevertheless remain more vulnerable to losing their jobs and less likely to be re-employed during a downturn. The challenge remains in enhancing their long term employability amid a volatile economic environment.
3.   The “Singapore Workforce, 2007” report profiles the resident workforce in Singapore in terms of their demographic and economic characteristics, focusing on the changes over time. More comprehensive data will be released in the annual labour force publication by 31 January 2008.

For More Information

4.   The report is available online on the Ministry of Manpower's website.


p - preliminary

1 Data on gross monthly income exclude full-time National Servicemen.

2 Employees on term contracts refer to those on fixed-term contract of employment that will terminate on the expiry of a specific term unless it is renewed, as well as those on casual/on-call employment (i.e. where persons are employed on ad hoc basis, as and when the company requires additional manpower).  On the other hand, permanent employees refer to those employed for an unspecified duration, i.e. they are not on term contracts.