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Labour Market Advanced Release 2020

  1. Advance estimates released by the Manpower Research and Statistics Department, Ministry of Manpower (MOM) showed a broad improvement in the labour market in 4Q 2020.  Resident employment rose for the second consecutive quarter – an improvement from the contractions in early 2020. However, non-resident employment  continued to contract.  Consequently, total employment declined every quarter in 2020.  In December 2020, unemployment rates fell for the second consecutive month.

  2. By end 2020, resident employment had rebounded to pre-COVID levels.  On the other hand, non-resident employment had contracted by around 16% or 181,500, accounting for all of the total employment contraction last year.  Nonetheless, the resident unemployment rate in December 2020 remains higher than in December 2019. This suggests that resident workforce participation was sustained despite the pandemic as more jobseekers joined or remained in the workforce than exited.

  3. Our workers’ resilience, together with measures taken by the tripartite partners through the NWC guidelines, National Jobs Council, SG United Jobs and Skills Package and other initiatives, helped to achieve this outcome.  It allows efforts to now be focused on further expanding resident employment and reducing resident unemployment.

    Main Findings   

    Resident employment grew by 9,300 in 2020 due to improvements in the second half of the year but non-resident employment declined by 181,500

  4. As business activities picked up, resident employment grew further in 4Q 2020 (28,900), after increasing by 43,200 the previous quarter. This represents a turnaround from the contractions in the first half of 2020.  However, as non-resident employment continued to decline in 4Q 2020 (-42,400), total employment contracted by 13,500 in 4Q 2020.

  5. In 4Q 2020, total employment continued to decline in Manufacturing and Construction, mainly attributed to reductions in non-resident Work Permit Holders.  On the other hand, employment (mainly of residents) grew in Services, primarily in Public Administration and Education.  Seasonal hiring for the year-end festive period also boosted employment in Food & Beverage Services and Retail Trade.

  6. Reflecting improvements in the second half of the year, resident employment managed modest growth in 2020 (9,300).  However, non-resident employment fell by around 16% (181,500), resulting in an overall employment decline of 172,200.

  7. The decline in non-resident employment was broad-based across all sectors.  On the other hand, resident employment declined mostly in sectors hard-hit by COVID-19, such as Accommodation, Wholesale Trade, and Retail Trade.  Most of the increases in resident employment were in growth sectors such as Info-communications & Technology, Financial Services and Professional Services.   

    The unemployment situation continued to ease in December 2020, but full year rates were higher than 2019’s

  8. Unemployment rates declined for the second consecutive month in December 2020 as compared with November 2020 (overall: from 3.3% to 3.2%; resident: from 4.6% to 4.4%; citizen: from 4.7% to 4.5%).  In comparison to September 2020, the unemployment rates in December 2020 have fallen by 0.3-0.4%-points, though they remained relatively higher than the rates in December  a year ago.

  9. As unemployment rates in 2020 were consistently higher than in 2019, the annual average unemployment rates  in 2020 also rose in comparison with 2019 (overall: from 2.3% to 3.0%; resident: from 3.1% to 4.1%; citizen: from 3.3% to 4.2%).  However, they stayed below the annual rates observed during SARS  in 2003 and the Global Financial Crisis  in 2009.

    Incidence of retrenchment in 2020 lower than past recessions

  10. Quarterly fluctuations in retrenchment numbers may not be indicative of underlying trends, and it is necessary to look across longer time periods.  In 2020, retrenchments in every quarter were higher than in 2019.  For the full year, the total number of retrenchments is expected to reach 26,570.  Retrenchments rose for all three broad sectors, occurring mainly in Arts, Entertainment & Recreation, Wholesale Trade, as well as Air Transport Services.  Taking into account the size of the workforce, the incidence of retrenchment for 2020 (13.0 retrenched per 1,000 employees) remained significantly lower compared to past recessionary years . 

  11. At the same time, the number of retrenchments in 4Q 2020 (6,100) is expected to be lower than in 3Q 2020 (9,120).  This was the first decline after five quarters of consecutive increases.  It remains to be seen if the reduction in overall retrenchments will be sustained in 2021.  For example, retrenchments are expected to rise in Air Transport Services due to the on-going travel restrictions, while business transformation in other sectors may result in further displacements.


  12. The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the labour market in 2020.  Although latest indicators point to a broad improvement, our labour market is still not back at pre-COVID conditions.  Uncertainties in the economic environment, coupled with weak demand conditions, will continue to weigh on the recovery of the labour market.  On-going travel restrictions are also likely to deter smooth business recovery in travel-related sectors, thus further reducing the pace of recovery in these hard-hit industries.

  13. The Government has set aside $1 billion for the Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) to encourage firms to bring forward their hiring plans and accelerate the hiring of Singaporeans.  In September 2020 , the first month of the scheme’s implementation, around 14,000 companies were eligible, and they collectively hired over 50,000 local jobseekers.  We will continue to work with the tripartite partners to make more jobs and skills opportunities available through the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Package.

  14.  To help jobseekers better access these opportunities, Workforce Singapore (WSG) has set up the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres in all HDB towns and deployed Careers Connect On-the-Go to bring career matching and coaching services closer to jobseekers.  This is in addition to physical touchpoints such as WSG and NTUC-e2i’s five career centres, and WSG’s Career Matching Providers, Ingeus and MAXIMUS.  Jobseekers can also use WSG’s, to search for job opportunities that suit their skills and competencies.

  15. For jobseekers who may not be able to secure a job straight away, the SGUnited Traineeships Programme and SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme provide traineeships, attachments or training opportunities hosted by companies.  These opportunities help jobseekers gain relevant work experience and networks for future employment.  Jobseekers can also tap on SGUnited Skills programme to acquire industry-relevant skills through certifiable courses that have been designed in partnership with industries and improve their employability.

  16. The Government and our tripartite partners are fully committed towards helping our businesses and jobseekers emerge stronger from the crisis.

    For More Information

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