Middle-aged PMEs hit the hardest as layoffs rise in S’pore

March 21, 201610:02 am282 views

Taxi driver Mr Ng, in his late 40s, took up his occupation last May after being a real estate agent for close to five years. As the property market slumped over the past three years, he found it tough to pay his housing loan and often had little left for daily needs.

“The current property market is not very good. It was very tough to close deals. I did not have much income. In order to survive, I accepted this vocation. I am not happy with the current job, but this is the best I can do for now. I am currently waiting for the next opportunity,” said Mr Ng, who requested that his full name be withheld.

“This job is just temporary as it is a thankless job with long hours. It requires a lot of concentration and has no medical benefits. If I stop for three days on days when I am unwell, it will cost me S$300 in earnings, just because I am not working. Including car rental at around S$50 a day, I lose S$450.”

Mr Ng said he wanted to run his own business but acknowledged that he would have to wait it out for now as the economic climate is bad. He said he wouldn’t return to real estate as he had enough of the industry.

Another Mr Ng, a construction manager in his 50s, lost his job after the company he worked for for over 10 years was closing down.

“When I was told the news I was shocked but I already had word that the industry was not doing so well… I just did not expect it to be on me. I still have younger children who have not completed their studies. I needed to get out and find another job to keep the momentum going,” said Mr Ng.

An ex-banker, 34, who wished to be known only as Jeffery, was told to go after he was unable to hit the sales targets set by the bank. He was in the job for only a few months and was previously running his own business. “If I can survive on my own doing business, I won’t consider finding a job. I would choose to spend more time with my family and do what I like to do. Unless something drastic happens,” he said.

More and more white-collar workers are finding themselves in the same boat as Jeffery and the two Mr Ngs, tossed about in rough waters as the worsening economic outlook forces companies to cut costs and retrench staff or even fold completely.

Redundancies have been climbing since 2010, with layoffs increasing in all sectors, the latest Ministry of Manpower (MOM) labour market report released last Tuesday showed. Last year, a total of 15,580 workers were laid off, the highest since the global financial crisis in 2009. Professionals, managers, executives and technicians (PMETs) made the bulk of the redundancies.

The report also showed that those aged 40 and above formed the majority of the redundancies at 64.5 per cent, followed by those aged 30-39 at 27.4 per cent and those below 30 years old at 8.1 per cent. Professional services, wholesale trade and financial services accounted for the most redundancies, followed by manufacturing and construction.


Retrenchments are expected to continue at least until June, with professionals, managers and executives (PMEs) likely to continue to bear the brunt.

“With the uncertain outlook, especially for certain sectors, I foresee retrenchments to be on the rise for the first half of 2016,” National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay, who is also MP for West Coast GRC, told TODAY.

“Those impacted will be majority PMEs due to the type of job losses,” he warned.

Mr Tay said NTUC will be enhancing its U PME centre support, which also includes working with the Association of Banks of Singapore to assist those in the financial sector in April. There will also be sectoral plans as part of SkillsFuture to provide career opportunities at all levels. The NTUC U PME movement, launched in 2014, currently has two physical centres at One Marina Boulevard and Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability, as well as a virtual portal.

Mr Tay said it is worrying that PMEs above 40 years of age appear to be more susceptible to redundancies and unemployment and added that more initiatives will be done for them.

“We have spotted these challenges and thus, we will put in place programmes/measures and also lobby the Government to deepen and widen support for these fellow PMEs,” he said.

Silver Spring, a job portal for PMEs between the ages of 40 and 70, noted a 50 per cent jump in the rate of applications at its site in the last six months, well above the normal 10 per cent increase. Applicants come mainly from the oil and gas, banks and IT industries, it said.

“The increase is partly because of the wider publicity and more active participation in various career fairs. However the other major factor is the higher rate of restructuring,” noted founder Ms Helen Lim, 69.

news source: todayonline.com

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