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Labour Force in Singapore Advance Release 2020


1. The Manpower Research and Statistics Department of the Ministry of Manpower published its annual “Labour Force in Singapore Advance Release 2020 (LFAR)” today1, based on findings from the mid-year Comprehensive Labour Force Survey (CLFS) 2020.

2. The LFAR typically analyses longer-term structural trends of indicators, such as employment rate and income growth, which are not reported in the quarterly labour market reports. This year, the CLFS was conducted in the midst of the Circuit Breaker, when curbs on business activities and movement were at their peak. Hence, LFAR 2020 highlights the impact of COVID-19 layered on top of structural trends.

3. The findings showed that the pandemic had varied impact on different workforce segments. Resident employment rate continued to rise for seniors but declined for youths. Non-PMETs were more impacted compared to PMETs, with larger increases in unemployment and time-related under-employment. Incomes moderated at the median, and more so at the 20th percentile. Help from the government mitigated the impact on lower-income earners.

Main Findings

Employment rate for seniors continued to rise, and fell more sharply for youths

4. Preliminary estimates in MOM’s Labour Market Advance Release showed that resident employment level rebounded in 3Q 2020 to near pre-COVID levels. However, when we compared employment rates in June 2020 (at the height of the Circuit Breaker) with June 2019, the impact varied across age groups.

5. Despite the pandemic’s impact on the economy, employment rate remained high (80.3%) for residents aged 25 to 64, the bulk of whom are in their prime working age2, and was close to the average in the last five years (80.5%). Among females, the employment rate largely held up while that for males moderated by 0.9%-point3.

6. Employment rate for residents aged 65 & over continued its sustained improvement, rising by 0.9%-point from 27.6% in June 2019 to 28.5% in June 2020, a result of ongoing efforts to raise the employability of senior workers. For example, the Special Employment Credit has been made available since 2011, along with other measures to support senior employment.

7. Employment rate among youths aged 15-24 continued its downward trend4. Over the years, more youths in this age group have remained in education and would have sought employment on part-time basis, often in hospitality-related sectors that were harder hit by the pandemic. The two effects combined caused the employment rate decline of 3%-point for this age group to be sharpest among all age groups.

Non-PMETs experienced larger increase in unemployment rate than PMETs

8. As industries more severely impacted by COVID-19 have a higher concentration of non-PMETs, the resident unemployment rate5 increased by a larger magnitude for non-PMETs (+1.7%-point from June 2019 to June 2020) than PMETs6 (+0.6%-point). The unemployment rates for both groups remained below previous recessionary peaks.

9. The increase in long-term unemployment rates was considerably smaller for both groups (non-PMETs: +0.1%-point, PMETs: +0.2%-point). Nevertheless, we are monitoring the long-term unemployment rates closely.

10. The National Jobs Council has been working closely with the tripartite partners to create jobs, traineeships, attachments and training opportunities under the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package. As of end-September, around 45,000 jobseekers have been placed, with about half of the job placements in non-PMET roles. The Government has also set aside $1 billion for the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) to enable firms that continue to do well to bring forward their hiring plans and create more good jobs for locals.

11. To better help jobseekers access these opportunities, Workforce Singapore (WSG) has set up the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres in all HDB towns and deploys the mobile Careers Connect On-the-Go (CCOTG) to bring career coaching services closer to jobseekers.

Median income dipped

12. Real median income7 growth was -0.3%P, a reversal from the 2.2% growth in 2019. Despite the moderation in 2020, real median income growth over the recent five years (2015 to 2020: 2.7% p.a.P) remained close to that over the preceding five years (2010 to 2015: 3.1% p.a.).

Steeper decline in income at the 20th percentile, but help from government to supplement incomes mitigated impact

13. Industries more adversely affected by COVID-19 had a higher concentration of lower-income earners, including the self-employed whose earnings were also reduced.As a result, real income of full-timers at the 20th percentile fell in June 2020 (-4.5%P).

14. The income data does not take into account governmental payouts such as the Workfare Income Supplement (WIS) that supplement the income of lower-income earners. Other temporary, one-off payments such as the Workfare Special Payment (WSP) for lower-income earners, the COVID-19 Support Grant (CSG) for employees and the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) for the self-employed would also help to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 (please refer to Annex A for details). After adding WIS and WSP payouts, the 20th percentile income level in 2020 is similar to the level in 2019.8

15. Over a five-year period from 2015 to 2020, real income growth at the 20th percentile (2.9% p.a.P) remained slightly higher than at the median (2.7% p.a.P).

Larger increase in time-related under-employment rate among non-PMETs, whose jobs were less suitable for remote work

16. The resident time-related under-employment rate increased from 3.1% in 2019 to 4.1% in 2020 but remained below the rate during the Global Financial Crisis in 2009 (4.3%). The increase was sharper in industries severely affected by COVID-19. As most of these industries employed more non-PMETs, and whose jobs are less suitable for remote work, non-PMETs experienced larger increases in time-related under-employment rate than PMETs.

Nearly half of workers worked from home due to COVID-19

17. Close to half (49%) or 1,094,900 employed residents worked from home due to COVID-19. Expectedly, a larger proportion of PMETs and clerical workers did so, compared to other groups of non-PMET workers, such as service & sales workers, craftsmen and cleaners, whose work typically needs to be done on-site or involve the use of machinery, vehicles or tools.

18. To support companies to sustain their business and accelerate transformation and restructuring, the Government has also provided substantial support through the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) and various enterprise development programmes. Under the expanded Productivity Solutions Grant for Job Redesign (PSG-JR), companies can also receive support for JR consultancy services that will help redesign work processes, tasks, duties and responsibilities so that more non-PMET job roles can be done remotely.

With re-opening, the labour market situation has improved since June 2020

19. The data from the CLFS showed the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market during the period when curbs on business activities and movement were at their peak. The labour market has improved since then, as the economy gradually re-opened.

20. Advance estimates released in the labour market advance release showed that resident employment rebounded strongly in 3Q 2020. This was supported by the pickup in employment growth in the Services sector, mainly in Community, Social & Personal Services (e.g. Healthcare, Public Administration) and Food & Beverage Services. In October 2020, the unemployment rate was unchanged at the overall level and for citizens, and inched up by 0.1%-point for residents compared to September 2020.

For More Information

21. The report is available online on the Ministry of Manpower’s Research and Statistics Department website at


P Preliminary as the full year Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for 2020 is not available yet. 



  1. The data pertain to the resident population, comprising Singapore citizens and permanent residents.
  2. Refers to those aged 25 to 54.
  3. The employment rate for female residents aged 25 to 64 dipped very slightly from 73.3% in June 2019 to 73.2% in June 2020, and fell for males aged 25 to 64, from 88.8% to 87.9%.
  4. The employment rate for resident youths aged 15 to 24 fell from 33.9% in June 2019 to 30.9% in June 2020.
  5. The unemployment and long-term unemployment rate for PMETs and non-PMETs are not seasonally adjusted because they refer specifically to June periods, and year on year comparisons will not be affected by seasonality. They should not be compared to top-line unemployment rates released quarterly. These rates have been adjusted to account for seasonality, so that quarter on quarter comparisons can be carried out.
  6. PMETs refer to professionals, managers, executives & technicians.
  7. Among full-time employed residents, including employer CPF contributions.
  8. Data on WIS and WSP are preliminary, based on latest available data.