Oral Answer by Minister for Manpower Dr Tan See Leng to PQs on recent layoffs in the tech sector
NOTICE PAPER NO. 1544 OF 2022 FOR SITTING ON 28 NOVEMBER 2022
QUESTION NO. 3828 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Miss Cheryl Chan Wei Ling
To ask the Minister for Manpower with the recent big tech companies’ layoff announcements (a) what is the total estimated number of workers impacted in Singapore; and (b) whether this will have a knock-on effect on salary adjustment of workers in the tech industry.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 1545 OF 2022 FOR SITTING ON 28 NOVEMBER 2022
QUESTION NO. 3842 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Ms Joan Pereira
To ask the Minister for Manpower in view of the recent rounds of layoffs by technology firms (a) whether employers have been prompt in submitting notices of retrenchment to the Ministry; and (b) whether the Ministry can require such employers to work closely with tripartite partners to provide employment support for affected employees, including outplacement assistance programmes.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 1549 OF 2022 FOR SITTING ON 28 NOVEMBER 2022
QUESTION NO. 3849 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Mr Saktiandi Supaat
To ask the Minister for Manpower in light of the reported ground-up initiatives by the IT community to help retrenched tech employees (a) in the last five years, how many employees have been annually laid off in the tech industry; (b) how successful has the Ministry’s job placement initiatives been in helping tech employees secure suitable replacement jobs; and (c) whether the Ministry will engage industry actors to centralise information to ensure fairer and more equitable re-employment processes.
NOTICE PAPER NO. 1549 OF 2022 FOR SITTING ON 28 NOVEMBER 2022
QUESTION NO. 3862 FOR ORAL ANSWER
MP: Ms Mariam Jaafar
To ask the Minister for Manpower in the recent layoffs by large tech companies (a) what is the number of employees retrenched; (b) what is the number of Singaporeans retrenched; and (c) what are the roles that have been impacted.
1. Members have filed several Parliamentary Questions regarding the recent spate of layoffs worldwide by tech firms. News sources have reported global retrenchment numbers at more than 21,000 employees across close to 50 tech companies worldwide in November 2022 alone, more than any other month this year. Members’ questions touch on two related issues. First, the impact of recent global tech layoffs on our local workforce. Second, the employment support measures for affected workers. I am going to take these questions together to provide a more holistic response.
2. I will begin with an overview of employment trends in the tech sector, and the impact of recent global tech layoffs on our local workforce. While there are no clearly defined boundaries, the tech sector generally refers to the Information & Communications (I&C) sector. As of June 2022, the I&C sector employs 136,100 residents. This number has increased steadily over the past five years, growing by an average of 8,100 resident workers per year from June 2017 to June 2022. In comparison, retrenchment numbers over the past five years have been relatively low, at an average of 790 resident workers per year. Mr Shawn Huang, Mr Melvin Yong, and Ms He Ting Ru have also filed written questions asking about retrenchment in the sector in 2022. Based on the available labour market data, 260 residents were retrenched in the first half of this year, as compared to the increase of 7,000 residents employed in the sector.
3. Nonetheless, recent retrenchment notices received by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) indicate an uptick in retrenchment of residents in this sector. In response to Miss Cheryl Chan Wei Ling, Ms Mariam Jaafar, Dr Lim Wee Kiak, and Dr Shahira Abdullah’s questions on the number and profile of workers affected by the most recent layoffs, MOM has received notices of retrenchment for 1,270 resident workers from tech companies from July to mid-November 2022. Around 8 in 10 of these affected workers were in non-tech roles. They work for tech companies but in non-tech roles, such as sales, marketing, and corporate functions, and around 7 in 10 were aged 35 and below. And this is consistent with the low median age of employed residents in the I&C sector.
4. Next, on employment support measures for affected workers. Most workers from the I&C sector have been able to secure a job soon after retrenchment. In 2Q 2022, the rate of re-entry into employment within six months post-retrenchment for residents in the sector was higher than in the overall economy, for both tech and non-tech workers. This suggests that retrenched non-tech workers had also found employment opportunities across the I&C sector and the larger economy. To Dr Shahira Abdullah’s question on whether demand for tech talent has started to fall this year, job vacancies in the I&C sector have in fact continued to rise in the first half of this year, from 11,100 in December 2021 to 12,100 in June 2022. This latest figure is more than triple the 3,800 vacancies in June 2020. In addition, other sectors like Financial Services, including local banks, are also hiring for tech roles. Taken together, this reflects that there is strong supportive capacity across the larger economy and opportunities for affected workers to fill in-demand roles.
5. Furthermore, half of the retrenching tech firms between July and mid-November 2022 have engaged outplacement partners or tapped on their industry networks to provide career transition services for their affected workers. In addition, the Taskforce for Responsible Retrenchment and Employment Facilitation (RTF), comprising representatives from Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i), is also reaching out to all affected local employees, including the youths which Dr Shahira Abdullah has asked about, to offer them employment support. This includes information kits on job fairs, career advisory as well as coaching services. For retrenched non-tech workers, we will also encourage them to consider Career Conversion Programmes (CCPs) as well as skills upgrading to improve their chances of returning to the workforce. The RTF provides relevant information on CCPs during their engagements with retrenching firms.
6. NTUC’s e2i also collaborated with Tech Talent Assembly, Accenture, and Amazon Web Services to organise an Infocomm Jobs & Skills Fair in November 2022 providing some 400 jobs on offer. Hence, to Ms Joan Pereira’s question regarding tripartite partnership to support affected employees, it is already happening. Responding to Mr Saktiandi Supaat’s question on the effectiveness of these job placement initiatives, 7 in 10 resident workers from the I&C sector who took up the RTF’s assistance in 2021 found a new job within six months.
7. To ensure that affected workers receive timely and effective support, it is important that retrenching firms adhere to the requirement to submit notices of retrenchment to MOM within five working days of notifying affected employees. To answer Ms Joan Pereira on whether tech firms have been prompt in submitting notices of retrenchment to MOM, the majority of retrenchment notifications from the I&C sector since July 2022 were submitted on time. Employers who do not submit on time are issued with caution letters.
8. Looking ahead, Dr Lim Wee Kiak has asked if the Government expects more layoffs of tech employees in the next six months. MOM is mindful that hiring demand may moderate in some parts of the I&C sector given macro-economic uncertainties and risks. We will continue to closely monitor retrenchment trends and render assistance to affected workers in both tech and non-tech roles through the RTF. We will also continue to work on expanding opportunities in the digital domain and invest in our workers to equip them with the skills and experience to seize opportunities.