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Singapore Workforce, 2008

Supported by gains in employment rate for females, the proportion of residents in employment reached another new high. The employment rate for older residents also continued to increase. However, unemployment has increased after reaching a decade low in the second half of 2007, with the less skilled remaining more vulnerable to unemployment. These are the key findings from the “Singapore Workforce, 2008” report by the Ministry of Manpower's Research and Statistics Department on the results of the comprehensive Labour Force Survey conducted in mid 2008.

Main Findings

2.   There were 1,928,300 residents in the labour force in June 2008, comprising 1,093,200 males and 835,100 females. The resident labour force grew by 2.7%1 from 2007 to 2008 (June periods), up from 2.0% in the preceding year. This was driven by both growth in the resident population and female labour force participation rate.

3.   Despite the more challenging economic outlook, the employment rate for the resident population aged 25 to 64 rose to a new high of 77.0% in 2008 from 76.5% in 2007. The improvement mainly resulted from more females who were previously outside the labour force becoming employed. Amid continuing efforts to enhance the employability of older persons, the employment rate for residents aged 55 to 64 increased by another 1.0%-point over the year to 57.2% in 2008.

4.   Most of the new jobs taken up by residents were in Professional, Managerial, Executive & Technician (PMET) positions. In the last two years, there were continued employment gains for residents in PMET occupations across all major sectors, but more so in services. Conversely, the number of residents employed in non-PMET occupations fell over the past two years. There were fewer residents employed in non-PMET jobs in manufacturing and services, but more in construction. This partly reflects the improvement in educational profile of the resident labour force. Consequently, PMETs now formed 51% of the resident workforce, up from 41% a decade ago. Correspondingly, the share of production & related workers declined from 30% to 24% and clerical, sales & service workers from 29% to 25%.

5.   The median monthly income for full-time employed residents rose over the year by 11% to $2,590 in 2008, up from the gain of 7.7% in 2007. After adjusting for higher inflation, the increase in median income was 4.6%p compared with 5.5% in 2007. The income growth in 2008 partly reflects the spillover effect from the strong economic performance last year and the higher proportion of PMETs, whose income is typically higher, among employed residents in 2008.

6.   Reflecting more cautious hiring sentiments amid the economic slowdown, the resident unemployment rate rose from a decade low of 2.4% in December 2007 to 3.1% in June 2008. Since then, the seasonally adjusted resident unemployment rate rose further to 3.3%p in September 2008 amid the economic contraction and continued weakening in economic outlook.

7.   The “Singapore Workforce, 2008” report profiles the demographic and economic characteristics of Singapore's resident workforce and the changes over time. More comprehensive data will be published in the Report on Labour Force in Singapore, 2008 on 30 January 2009.

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


1 To facilitate comparison with 2008, the 2007 Labour Force Survey (LFS) data have been adjusted based on DOS's revised population estimates (released in February 2008) which exclude Singapore residents who have been away from Singapore for a continuous period of 12 months or longer.

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