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Thread: Unemployment at highest in a decade, retrenchments up

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default Unemployment at highest in a decade, retrenchments up

    Unemployment at highest in a decade, retrenchments up

    Published 11 hours ago

    Total employment in 2nd quarter plunges by 121,800 - the biggest quarterly fall on record

    Joanna Seow
    Assistant Business Editor

    Sue-Ann Tan

    Unemployment and retrenchments surged between April and June, as the Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on the labour market.

    The overall unemployment rate rose to 2.9 per cent last month after taking into account seasonal variations - the highest in just over a decade, and up from 2.4 per cent in March. The rate for Singaporeans rose to 4 per cent, from 3.5 per cent, and the rate for Singaporeans and permanent residents combined rose to 3.9 per cent, from 3.3 per cent, preliminary data released by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) yesterday showed.

    Still, unemployment remained lower than previous peaks during the global financial crisis and the Sars outbreak, said the ministry.

    The number of unemployed Singaporeans climbed nearly 20 per cent to 79,600 last month, up from 66,900 in March. Together with permanent residents, there were 90,500 unemployed residents last month, up from 76,200 in March.

    Total employment, including those on work passes but excluding foreign domestic workers, plunged by 121,800 in the second quarter - the biggest quarterly fall on record. This is more than four times the fall in the first quarter, and means that the economy has shed a net 147,500 workers in the first half of the year.

    Retrenchments more than doubled in the second quarter, with 6,700 workers laid off, up from 3,220 in the first quarter. This was higher than the peak of 5,510 during the 2003 Sars outbreak, but below the 2009 global financial crisis high of 12,760, said MOM.

    Layoffs rose significantly in the last quarter in wholesale trade and transport equipment due to lower demand for retail and air travel.

    Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said yesterday that the contraction in employment was "quite reflective of the workforce composition" in terms of the spread between local and foreign workers, but added that the exact breakdown is not yet available.

    She also noted that the jobs situation may not have bottomed out.

    "The outlook is still uncertain," she said. "Singapore is very plugged into the global economy. When there's weakness in global demand, companies are likely to be much more cautious."

    In services, the second-quarter contraction in employment was sharpest in food and beverage; retail trade; arts, entertainment and recreation; and education. Construction also saw a steep drop in employment, while manufacturing saw a more modest decline.

    Mrs Teo noted that the construction, marine and process industries will need more adjustment as they deal with strict requirements for resuming activity on worksites, and said there will be support, as the Government looks into foreign worker levies.

    "We know very well that they've carried the heavier burden on behalf of all of us, and we are very mindful that we will try our best to support them throughout this period of transition," she said.

    National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said he was concerned that the figures may not reflect the full picture, as older workers who are not re-employed, or foreigners whose work passes are not renewed, are not included in the overall retrenchment numbers.

    Observers expect unemployment to rise in the coming months, as measures like the Jobs Support Scheme taper off.

    Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat also announced that traineeships will be expanded to cater to mid-career job seekers. They can apply for over 13,000 attachments from Saturday.

    Mr Heng urged employers to take on workers who may not be the perfect fit but are willing to learn, saying: "When the Covid-19 situation passes... they will be able to emerge stronger."
    Last edited by reporter2; 30-07-20 at 17:56.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default Re: Unemployment at highest in a decade, retrenchments up


    Layoffs double in Q2; total employment dives by quarterly record of 122,000

    Actual numbers likely to be bigger; worst not over, say Manpower Minister Josephine Teo, economists

    Thu, Jul 30, 2020

    Sharon See

    SINGAPORE'S total employment saw its worst quarterly contraction on record in the second quarter of 2020, according to preliminary data, and economists fear the worst is yet to come.

    The total number of people working between April and June shrank by 121,800, almost five times the 25,700 seen in Q1, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Wednesday. The contraction in employment in Q2 was broad-based across the manufacturing, services and construction sectors.

    The poor showing in Q2 corresponds with Singapore's "circuit breaker" period, when the economy was partially shut down from April 7 to June 1 to curb the spread of Covid-19.

    Retrenchments more than doubled in Q2 to 6,700, compared with 3,220 in Q1. MOM noted that while Q2's figure has surpassed the quarterly peak of 5,510 seen during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003, it is still lower than the 12,760 reached during the 2009 Global Financial Crisis.

    While the preliminary data is dire, the actual situation is likely to be worse.

    In a Facebook post on Wednesday, National Trades Union Congress assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay said: "The figures may not reflect the full impact of the retrenchment numbers as I do see and hear of workers being contractually terminated (though with adequate notice pay), older workers not being re-employed, as well as foreign workers on work permit, S-Pass and Employment Pass whose passes are not renewed. These do not count towards overall retrenchment numbers."

    Maybank Kim Eng's senior economist Chua Hak Bin added that retrenchment figures only capture firms with at least 25 employees, and do not include contract workers or those in the gig economy.

    "That's why we prefer to look at the total employment loss, which is about 148,000 in the first half (of 2020)," Dr Chua said. "This pandemic is a regressive shock which disproportionately hits the lower wage workers and also the smaller firms, including the self-employed and SMEs."

    The overall unemployment rate rose to 2.9 per cent in June, up from 2.4 per cent in March. Resident unemployment rose from 3.3 to 3.9 per cent during this period, while citizen unemployment went up from 3.5 to 4 per cent.

    Economists believe the worst is yet to come, echoing the ministry's view that the labour outlook remains soft in the months ahead, even though the economy began its phased reopening in early June.

    Manpower Minister Josephine Teo told reporters during a briefing: "It is reasonable for us to adopt a more cautious attitude, and that is to expect that it hasn't bottomed."

    Comparing Singapore with Hong Kong, Mrs Teo noted that Hong Kong's unemployment rate has risen to 6.2 per cent by June, even though both cities had comparable resident unemployment rates at end-2019. She pointed out that governments that prioritise minimising Covid-19 fatalities would have to take strict measures with regard to economic and social activities, and this would have an impact on employment.

    United Overseas Bank economist Barnabas Gan said companies may also be reluctant to hire, while the pressure to retrench could increase, against the backdrop of a slowing economy.

    OCBC Bank's chief economist Selena Ling said one key milestone to watch will be the upcoming expiry of the Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) in August and a calibrated extension to provide longer support for a longer period of time given the long tail nature of the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be discounted.

    "The path of least resistance may be that fiscal stimulus remains on tap, as... is currently under consideration in the US Congress, and various forms of jobs and unemployment wage support schemes have also been extended in Australia and the UK," Ms Ling said.

    However, for workers that have been laid off, wage support through the JSS is of limited help.

    Maybank's Dr Chua said: "We think the government should also consider some unemployment income support for the retrenched workers, as they will struggle to find a job quickly in this pandemic recession."

    Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, during a visit to the SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centre at Kampong Chai Chee Community Club on Wednesday, told reporters the government has been in discussion about its next steps.

    "We have been poring through the data and looking at what are the immediate things that we need to do and what are the longer-term issues we need to do. So in the immediate, I think we will have to look at how we can continue to protect the livelihoods of our workers, how do we create jobs and training opportunities. That is the top priority at this stage," Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said.

    Meanwhile, some 13,000 company attachments will be made available to local mid-career jobseekers from Aug 1 through the SGUnited Mid-Career Pathways Programme, Workforce Singapore said.

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