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Labour Market Advance Release 2021


1. Advance estimates show that the labour market maintained its recovery trajectory in 4Q 2021, as economic growth picked up momentum in the same quarter despite a global Omicron variant surge.  Resident employment grew at a faster pace, and non-resident employment saw an increase for the first time in two years.  As a result, total employment increased significantly in 4Q 2021. The unemployment situation also continued to improve, and retrenchments stayed low. 

Main Findings1     

Substantial total employment growth in 4Q 2021 attributed to both residents and non-residents

2. In 4Q 2021, resident employment continued to expand at a faster pace compared to the preceding quarter.  Non-resident employment saw growth for the first time in eight quarters.  As a result, total employment (excl. Migrant Domestic Workers or MDWs) grew substantially by 47,400.

3. Part of the increase in resident employment reflects seasonal hiring due to the year-end peak period in Food & Beverages Services and Retail Trade.  Employment grew in these sectors for the first time after consecutive quarters of declines2At the same time, resident employment continued to grow steadily in outward-oriented sectors such as Information & Communications and Financial ServicesThe former benefited from the strong demand for IT and digital solutions, as well as robust games and software publishing activities, while the latter was bolstered in part by fund management activities3

4. Non-resident employment saw a considerable increase in the Construction sector in part due to the resumption of entry approvals for fully vaccinated CMP4 workers to enter the country from early November.  The non-resident workforce in other sectors was relatively flat, after consecutive quarters of decline.

5. The non-resident employment expansion in the final quarter was however not sufficient to make up for the declines in the first three quarters.  As a result, for the full year 2021, non-resident employment is expected to contract, though at a much slower pace than in 2020.  This smaller decline, coupled with stronger resident employment growth, is expected to result in a rebound in total employment, compared with the contraction of 166,600 in 2020.

The unemployment situation continued to improve, and we could expect unemployment rates to decline to pre-COVID levels in the months ahead

6. In December 2021, a 0.1%-point decline was observed for the overall (from 2.5% to 2.4%) and citizen (from 3.5% to 3.4%) unemployment rates, as compared to November 2021.  The resident unemployment rate remained unchanged (3.2%). 

7. With gradual improvement in the unemployment situation throughout the year, the annual unemployment rates5 showed significant improvement in 2021 (overall: from 3.0% to 2.6%; resident: from 4.1% to 3.5%; citizen: from 4.2% to 3.7%).  However, they remain above pre-COVID levels6

Retrenchments are expected to remain low

8. Retrenchments are also expected to decline further in 4Q 2021 (1,300).  The number of retrenchments declined significantly over the year as well, from 26,110 in 2020 to 7,820 in 2021.  For both 4Q 2021 and full year 2021, ‘reorganisation / restructuring’ was a common reason for retrenchments.  This was different from 2020, when retrenchments were mainly due to ‘recession / business downturn’ as cited by employers.

9. Over the year, retrenchments had declined considerably across Construction, Manufacturing, and Services.  Retrenchments declined most significantly in the Services sector, which saw a sizable number of layoffs back in 2020 – particularly in consumer-facing, aviation- and tourism-related industries such as Retail Trade, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation, and Air Transport Services.


10. We expect the labour market to continue to improve in 2022, driven by an overall easing in domestic COVID-19 restrictions and the resumption of international travel.  However, recovery to pre-COVID state continues to be uneven across sectors, and uncertainty remains over the trajectory of the virus.  Adopting a risk-managed approach in border control measures has allowed our non-resident workforce to rebound to a small degree after two years of sharp decline.  We expect the non-resident workforce numbers to recover further in 2022.

11. Our resident workforce fared well in 2021, with overall resident employment growing much quicker than in 2020 and unemployment rates coming down steadily.  The Government and our tripartite partners will continue to support our workers and businesses, so that we can achieve labour market recovery as the economy and businesses restructure.  For example:

  1. The Jobs Growth Incentive (JGI) provides salary support for eligible employers to expand local hiring, and remains available for new local hires until March 2022.  Higher support is available for mature local hires aged 40 and above, persons with disabilities, and ex-offenders.  From September 2020 to August 2021, the JGI had supported the hiring of close to 509,000 locals by 67,000 firms.
  2. Around 100 Career Conversion Programmes (CCPs) are available across about 30 sectors to help employers hire and train mid-career workers, or to reskill and redeploy existing workers to new job roles.  The CCPs provide support for up to 90% of training and salary costs.
  3. The SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways programme offers attachment opportunities for mid-career jobseekers, with a possibility of hiring after the attachment.  The trainee acquires industry relevant skills to increase their employability.  Host organisations that take on mature mid-career trainees receive higher government co-funding for training allowance of 90%, while the trainees receive up to $3,800 in monthly training allowances.
  4. Jobseekers who require career matching services can approach Workforce Singapore (WSG) and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute, including through any of the 24 islandwide SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres.

12. The Labour Market Report 2021, to be released in mid-March 2022, will provide more details, such as resident and non-resident employment, sectoral breakdowns, number of job vacancies, labour turnover, and re-entry rates among retrenched residents.  This will give us a fuller picture of the labour market situation in 4Q 2021 and the full year 2021.

For More Information

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

14. For data requests and queries pertaining to the report, please reach out to the Ministry of Manpower’s Research and Statistics Department at




  1. 4Q 2021 and 2021 data are preliminary.
  2. Retail Trade and Food & Beverages Services had been experiencing employment declines since 1Q 2021 and 2Q 2021 respectively.
  3. Source: MTI
  4. CMP refers to the Construction, Marine Shipyard and Process sector.
  5. Annual figures are the simple averages of the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment figures obtained at quarterly intervals.
  6. In 2019, annual average unemployment rates for overall, resident, and citizen were 2.3%, 3.1%, and 3.3% respectively.