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Singaporean PMET unemployment rate remains low, more help available for those displaced

  • The Straits Times (30 April 2015): Singaporean PMET unemployment rate remains low, more help available for those displaced
  • The Straits Times (25 April 2015): Do more to help older PMETs

Singaporean PMET unemployment rate remains low, more help available for those displaced
- The Straits Times, 30 April 2015
  1. We thank Mr Edmund Khoo Kim Hock for his letter (“Do more to help older PMETs”, Straits Times, 25 April).
  2. In a small economy that is inevitably exposed to competition from around the world, and with individual businesses themselves subject to constant contest in the global marketplace, a certain amount of layoffs will happen regularly. What is critical, and what we must be focused on, is enabling workers to find new jobs when they are laid off.
  3. Fortunately, despite layoffs, the unemployment rate for Singaporean PMETs has stayed low at 2.9%, with the majority able to re-enter the workforce quickly. The long-term unemployment rate, reflecting those unable to get a job for more than six months, is even lower at 0.7%. These are among the lowest rates internationally.
  4. However, the Government is stepping up its efforts to help PMETs who become redundant, by matching them to good jobs available in the economy. This effort is more important now as our economy restructures towards being driven by deeper skills and expertise, and as more efficient firms displace others. It will often mean equipping mid-career Singaporeans with new skills so that they can take on new jobs.
  5. Last year, we substantially increased the support given to employers who hire mature PMETs in professional conversion programmes, to 90% of basic monthly salary during the period of training. Last month, we launched the P-Max programme, which supports the entry of PMETs into suitable jobs in our small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). We encourage employers to take full advantage of these schemes. Employers should look out for mid-career Singaporeans who are temporarily dislocated, help them to get back into a good job, re-train them where necessary, and enable them to contribute their worth.
  6. But beyond matching displaced workers to today’s jobs, the SkillsFuture initiative will help Singaporeans stay relevant throughout their careers. It includes a special focus on mid-career Singaporeans. Education and training subsidies for all Singaporeans aged 40 and above will be enhanced to a minimum of 90% of training costs for courses funded by MOE and WDA. We will also facilitate learning throughout one’s career through modular courses, which will help individuals balance family, career and learning.
  7. We must continue with our restructuring efforts so that our economy can remain vibrant and competitive, to secure jobs today, but also provide full opportunity for Singaporeans to have good careers tomorrow. 

Do more to help older PMETs
- The Straits Times, 25 April 2015

Responsibility for the increase in the number of retrenchments last year has been placed on ongoing economic restructuring in Singapore ("More workers laid off amid economic restructuring"; yesterday).

Since economic restructuring refers to the phenomenon of urban areas shifting from a manufacturing to a service-sector economic base, which directly affects employment, why is the likelihood of redundancy among professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) higher than among blue-collar construction, production and related workers?

PMETs accounted for 51 per cent of the layoffs last year.

Even among those made redundant, the rate of re-entry into employment is far slower for white-collar workers.

Among those who found new jobs, a large proportion resumed work in a different industry, suggesting that their previous employment was in a sunset industry, or that a huge number of these PMETs end up underemployed as insurance or property agents, private tutors, security guards or taxi drivers, thereby competing with a huge pool of non-graduates for employment.

The group of mostly university-educated Singaporeans continue to lose their livelihood at an alarming rate.

In spite of tighter restrictions introduced last year to control the influx of foreign PMETs, the retrenchment rate of white-collar citizens remains high, as many companies still prefer hiring foreigners, owing to savings in cost.

The long-term consequence of structural unemployment, especially with tens of thousands of older local PMETs losing their skills and employability, is the eventual weakening of our economy.

Older Singaporean employees have discovered that existing guidelines and incentives to companies are far too inadequate and ineffective. Retrenched workers with the required experience, impressive track record and credentials can send out hundreds of job applications, attend numerous interviews, and still draw a blank, owing to nothing except their age.

The Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices may have set out principles of fair employment practices for adoption by employers.

However, in the absence of legislation, such an approach falls short of getting firms to keep or re-employ their older workers.