Employment growth static in Singapore as foreign worker numbers decline

Author: PM editorial | Date: 3 May 2017

Monetary Authority report says outlook for labour market growth is modest and “uneven across sectors”

Singapore saw fewer foreign workers employed during the second half of 2016, resulting in flat net employment growth despite gains in the recruitment of nationals, according to the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s (MAS) latest macroeconomic review.

A total of 11,400 residents secured jobs during the period, but these gains were offset by a fall of 11,700 in the number of foreign workers, “amid continued restructuring in the manufacturing and construction sectors”. Most of the job losses were low-skilled Work Permit Holders. Overall employment grew by 0.5 per cent last year.

Expectations for the remainder of 2017 are not significantly different from last year, said the report, although “modest manpower demand should dampen underlying wage pressures”.

The MAS described the outlook for employment as “cautious” with growth in the near term expected to stay “modest and uneven across sectors”. Growth is expected in the community, social and personal (CSP) segment of the labour market, boosted by ongoing initiatives to build long-term capacity in the education and healthcare sectors. Construction and manufacturing are expected to see a weaker performance, with declines seen recently in oil and gas-related activities.

The improving picture in the global economy over the past six months is expected to provide continued support to the country’s trade-related sectors, the MAS said in its Monetary Policy Statement – released in conjunction with the macroeconomic review – but GDP growth will remain modest.

“Overall, the economy should expand by 1-3 per cent in 2017, not markedly different from the growth of 2 per cent in 2016,” it said. This corresponds with Oxford Economics’ forecast, in December, of 1.9 per cent growth in the Singaporean economy this year.

Despite overall weakness in labour demand, a recent Ministry of Manpower report revealed that there are unfilled vacancies for PMET roles, which is believed to be down to perceptions over unattractive pay and a lack of candidates with the necessary work experience.

Earlier this month, Workforce Singapore (WSG) announced that it would be expanding its career matching service in order to reach local PMET jobseekers and “minimise missed matches in the labour market”, with the appointment of two private sector placement providers.