The long-term unemployment rate in Singapore rose from 0.6 percent in September last year to 0.8 percent in September 2016, the highest recorded since 2009. Three in 10 unemployed residents in the country are unable to find work for more than six months in September, the highest in a period of 14 years, the Ministry of Manpower’s latest labour market report shows.
The “long-term unemployment” as in this case refers to those without job for at least 25 weeks. This spike was more pronounced in residents aged 50 and above, and those with diploma and professional qualifications.
Several factors have been at play to lead to this unemployment crisis, predominantly older workers being displaced by disruptive technology at work, those reluctant to accept jobs for lower pay and those ill-equipped with skills to cope with new technology advancements.
MOM reported on the job situation in Q3 2016 to signal an alarming increase in the number of layoffs in the first nine months of this year, since the 2009 global financial crisis. Jobseekers seem to have outnumbered the vacancies for the second quarter in a row.
Job redundancies for the first nine months of this year stood at 13,730. Layoffs, however, dipped between the second and third quarters, from 4,800 to 4,220, TODAY reports.
In the first nine months of 2016, total employment expanded by just 14,500, the slowest growth since 2009 global economic crisis. And in the job market, at the end of the third quarter, there were 100 jobseekers vying for 91 openings, down from 93 vacancies at the end of the second quarter, based on seasonally-adjusted figures.
The overall unemployment rate remains unchanged between the second and third quarter at 2.1 percent. However, more jobseekers are struggling to find jobs. In September, the number of citizens and permanent residents jobless for at least 25 weeks was 17,600, which formed 30 percent of unemployment residents up from 23 percent a year ago.
Mr Zainal Sapari, assistant secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) and Member of Parliament (MP) for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC thinks mid-career professionals formed majority of the long-term unemployed. However, some of them were reluctant to explore uncharted territory in a different sector for jobs.
Also mismatch on skills and salary expectations of workers, to expect what they earned previously if they moved to a new industry added to the reluctance of taking up jobs in different industries. However, Sapari expressed confidence that given the maturity, experience and skills of these unemployed workers, they would quickly adapt to the changing times and earn a commensurate wage.
As for the labour-market woes, economists observed that these are compounded by a sustained period of sluggish economic growth, which has made businesses more cautious about hiring. Mr Sapari encouraged those retrenched and out of jobs for extended periods to take advantage of the various government schemes to include Professional Conversion Programmes for mid-career switches.
Besides getting workers trained on necessary skills to meet job demands, companies should get workers to change their mindsets by allowing them to learn on job, help them to stay employed longer and raise productivity.
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