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Labour market advance release 2016: local employment grew, while foreign employment contracted


  1. Amid restructuring and a slower economy, local employment grew modestly in 2016, while foreign employment contracted. Unemployment increased for residents and citizens. Redundancies were also higher. Median income for citizens continued to grow over the last five years, although growth slowed in 2016. These are the key findings from the "Labour Market Advance Release 2016" report released by the Manpower Research and Statistics Department, Ministry of Manpower.

    Main Finding

    4th Quarter 2016

    Unemployment and redundancies rose, while employment grew in the fourth quarter
  2. Preliminary estimates showed that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose for overall (from 2.1% in September 2016 to 2.2% in December 2016), residents (2.9% to 3.2%) and citizens (3.0% to 3.5%). This occurred even as employment grew as more people entered the labour force to look for work.
  3. Reflecting seasonal hiring for year-end festivities, total employment grew in the fourth quarter of 2016 (1,900), compared to the contraction in the third quarter (-2,700), but growth was lower than the fourth quarter of 2015 (16,100).
  4. Redundancies increased in the fourth quarter of 2016. 5,300 workers were laid off in the fourth quarter of 2016, higher than the third quarter (4,220), and was similar to a year ago (5,370).

    Full Year 2016

    Unemployment rose for residents and citizens
  5. The annual average unemployment rate in 2016 rose to its highest since 2010 for overall (1.9% in 2015 to 2.1% in 2016), residents (2.8% to 3.0%) and citizens (2.9% to 3.1%). The increase was broad based across most age and education groups, with residents aged 30 to 39 and 50 & over, as well as those with secondary and degree qualifications particularly affected.

    Local employment grew, while foreign employment contracted
  6. Local employment increased by an estimated 10,700 (or 0.5%) in 2016, rebounding from the flat growth in 2015. Local employment growth occurred in many services sectors, including community, social and personal services, professional services and transportation and storage. On the other hand, foreign employment (excluding FDW) contracted in 2016 (-2,500 or -0.2%), the first time since 2009. Declines were mainly in construction and marine.
  7. On the whole, total employment is estimated to have increased by 16,400 or 0.4% (8,200 excluding FDW) in 2016, the lowest growth since 2003. The moderation in total employment took place amid slower growth in the Singapore economy, slowdown in local labour force growth, and continued tightening of FW policy.

    Broad-based income growth for Singaporeans over the last five years
  8. Year-on-year, the median income of citizens grew at a slower pace in 2016. The nominal median monthly income from work of full-time employed citizens (including employer CPF contributions) rose by 0.7% over the year to $3,823 in June 2016, or 1.3% in real terms .
  9. There was sustained income growth at the median and 20th percentile over the last five years. The median income (including employer CPF contributions) of full-time employed citizens rose by 25% (4.5% p.a.) in nominal terms from 2011 to 2016, or 16% (3.1% p.a.), after adjusting for inflation. Income at the 20th percentile of full-time employed Singaporeans also grew at a similar pace (17% or 3.2% p.a. in real terms). This was unlike in the earlier five years (2006 to 2011) when it grew at a slower rate than the median.

    Redundancies rose amid business restructuring and slower economy
  10. For the whole of 2016, redundancies rose to 19,000, mainly due to restructuring and a slower economy. Redundancies have trended up since 2010, but remained lower than the recessionary high in 2009. Layoffs increased across all broad sectors.

  11. The weaker and more uncertain economic environment in 2016 has presented a challenge to sustain growth and stem a rise in unemployment. As we transform our industries to create better jobs for Singaporeans at all levels, MOM and Workforce Singapore will step up efforts with tripartite partners to help workers to seize new job opportunities through the various employment and career support programmes under SkillsFuture and Adapt and Grow initiatives.

    For More Information
  12. The report is available on the Ministry of Manpower’s website at